Are you familiar with the term ‘‘whistleblowing’? You have heard it before, but weren’t quite sure what it meant, and you’re not alone. A whistleblower is someone who reports a violation of the law by his or her employer or discloses information he or she believes is evidence of an illegal act. There are many different circumstances which may qualify as a violation of law, such as sexual harassment claims or an unfavorable administrative decision such as discipline, demotion, or dismissal. There are many different types of discrimination and harassment that may result in a whistleblowing claim, such as discrimination based on race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and age.
In the United States, whistleblowers are protected by the law from retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an employer or company takes adverse action against an employee based on a complaint about harassment or discrimination. While it is true that whistleblowers are protected, various industries have different laws pertaining to both retaliation and whistleblowing. Because of this, it is important you have an experienced employment lawyer by your side.
Understanding United States Whistleblowing Laws
Whistleblowing laws were first put into action when Abraham Lincoln was President. He wanted to ensure individuals who were aware of fraudulent or illegal activities were protected and felt safe to report these inappropriate actions. In 1863, the False Claims Act (FCA) was passed, largely as a response to all the fraud that took place during the Civil War. At this time whistleblower (also known as qui tam) laws were put into place. The idea was to encourage citizens to bring lawsuits against employers, companies, and individuals who were acting illegally at the government’s expense. Today the FCA is still in place, although it has undergone numerous revisions. In 1989, Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), which allowed employees to file a complaint against their employer in the event they believed they were being retaliated against for questioning their fraudulent activities.
Types of Whistleblowing
As mentioned, there are many different scenarios that can turn into a whistleblowing lawsuit. While in the past whistleblower cases only concerned fraud against the government, today that is no longer the case. Many claims under the FCA are related to illegal activity by the military, healthcare workers, environmental laws, tax law, and so on. Here are a few additional examples of whistleblowing:
- Racial discrimination
- Sexual harassment
- Gender discrimination
- Fraud or wrongdoing with the intention of gaining financial or personal benefits
- Education fraud
- Business fraud
- Government fraud
These are just a few broad examples of whistleblowing cases. While in many cases whistleblowers are famous and the cases gain national attention, this is not always the case. If you suspect your employer of wrongdoing or fraudulent activity, please contact the whistleblower attorneys at Janovsky & Associates. We understand how overwhelming these types of cases can be and will work closely with you to ensure your rights are protected.