What are Whistleblower Laws?
Whistleblower laws refer to a number of state and federal laws that provide certain protections and rights to whistleblowers. A whistleblower is a person (typically an employee) who reports illegal or fraudulent actions being carried out by their employer and/or co-workers to an outside agency or the government.
Whistleblower laws not only grant employees the right to become whistleblowers, but also protects them from potential retaliatory acts of employers. For example, an employer cannot retaliate against a worker for reporting an illegal act (i.e., “blowing the whistle”) by terminating them, denying them benefits, or demoting them. If this occurs, the whistleblower can sue their employer for retaliatory discharge.
Some important federal whistleblower laws include:
- The Whistleblower Protection Act;
- The False Claims Act;
- The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002;
- The Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (i.e., the “No-Fear” Act); and
- The Military Whistleblower Protection Act.
To learn more about your protections and rights as a whistleblower, you should speak to a local whistleblower attorney. In some cases, hiring a whistleblower attorney before reporting your employer can give you certain advantages, such as not having to disclose your identity to file a claim and persuading a government agency to join a matter on your behalf.
What Does a Whistleblower Attorney Do?
Whistleblower law is an extremely complex area of the law. Cases brought under whistleblower statutes require someone who has extensive knowledge of whistleblower regulations, the various procedures associated with separate types of whistleblower issues, and the rights and protections whistleblowers have based on the facts of a specific matter.
Thus, it may be in a whistleblower’s best interest to hire a whistleblower attorney who is employed by a whistleblower law firm.
Attorneys at a whistleblower law firm are specially trained to handle an array of whistleblower legal issues, such as state false claims act lawsuits and federal qui tam cases. A whistleblower attorney can identify what law an issue falls under, will know what type of evidence or information is required for a case, and can convince the government to get involved early on in the process.
In the event that the government or an outside agency declines to be joined in a lawsuit, a whistleblower attorney can help a whistleblower file a private action instead. Whistleblower law firms are particularly useful in these situations because the law firm will be responsible for covering the high costs of a private whistleblower lawsuit (e.g., filing fees, hiring expert witnesses, investigating expenses, etc.) until the matter is resolved.
Finally, a whistleblower attorney can potentially help shield a client’s identity, which in turn, can protect them from retaliation. Additionally, a whistleblower attorney can also assist clients in recovering whistleblower rewards and in requesting that a case be sealed.
Can a Person Be Retaliated Against for Being a Whistleblower?
As discussed above, an employer who retaliates against a worker for being a whistleblower may be subject to an administrative investigation and possibly a retaliation lawsuit. If the administrative investigation produces unsatisfactory results, only then can the whistleblower sue their employer.
A whistleblower who brings a successful retaliation lawsuit against their employer will potentially be able to recover several remedies, such as monetary damages awards, reinstated to their original role in the company, and/or any benefits they are owed under their employment agreement.
In some cases, a whistleblower may even be able to recover special damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs associated with the retaliation lawsuit. A court may also order the employer or business to change their company policies to ensure that this conduct does not occur again in the future.
How Can a Whistleblower Lawyer Protect My Anonymity and Rights?
It can be extremely difficult for a plaintiff to prevail in a whistleblower lawsuit. This is because the plaintiff will need to submit actual proof that they were wrongfully terminated. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated due to blowing the whistle on your employer, you should hire a whistleblower lawyer immediately to increase your chances of winning your case and recovering monetary damages.
An experienced whistleblower lawyer can help you navigate the necessary procedures required to file a whistleblower lawsuit. They can also assist you in gathering evidence, building your case, and representing you during court proceedings.
Additionally, in some cases, a whistleblower lawyer may be able to help you remain anonymous and protect your legal rights. For instance, some regulations allow a whistleblower to report their employer anonymously.
Thus, if you consult a whistleblower lawyer before submitting a claim to an outside agency or speaking to an internal department (e.g., human resources or compliance) and there is a law to protect your identity, the lawyer may be able to report your employer’s actions to an agency on your behalf.
A whistleblower attorney can also advise you on when you will not be able to report an employer anonymously, can discuss other avenues of legal recourse, and can explain the potential outcomes of each of these options.