Whistleblowers often face a lot of backlash for their actions, especially from the company or organization they report. Even when a whistleblower is taking a stand and doing the right thing, the fact is that they’re stuck in the middle of a controversial issue. Some people see whistleblowers in a poor light, calling their actions disloyal, but the truth is that it takes courage to take action when your employer or co-workers are in the wrong.
If you are a whistleblower, make sure you know what protections are available to you. What you do next could define your career and will likely have a significant impact on both your personal and professional life. In order to ensure you are taking advantage of every legal protection available, make sure you know how whistleblowers are defended by local and federal laws.
What is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is someone who reports illegal activity within their own company. Usually, this means reporting the issue to the public, the police, or others in a position of authority. Whistleblowers can speak to any number of issues, including safety violations, environmental protection violations, unfair treatment, fraud, or other illegal activities.
Unfortunately, whistleblowers can face negative repercussions for reporting such activity to those within their company. Out of anger or embarrassment, the company may try to fire the whistleblower, or their actions may directly result in a demotion, denial of benefits, denial of a well-earned promotion, or other types of abusive treatment.
Laws Protecting Whistleblowers
In order to prevent such negative repercussions, there are several protections in place designed to defend whistleblowers and to encourage more people to come forward when they notice illegal activity in the workplace.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is a very specific protection extended to those who report Securities and Exchange Commission regulation violations due to fraud.
The Federal Civil False Claims Act (FCFCA) also protects whistleblowers under the provision “qui tam.” This provision allows individuals to file lawsuits in the name of the U.S. government when government contractors or other companies receiving government funds commit fraud.
If an employee reports serious workplace safety issues to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the employee could be protected under a special whistleblower protection law. The whistleblower must report the violation to OSHA by filing a safety and health complaint, and if they do, there are several protections in place that can guard the employee from retaliation. Depending on the type of OSHA violation, the employee may be protected by the Energy Reorganization Act, the Water Pollution Control Act, or any number of other laws designed to protect the environment and workers.
In addition to these legal protections, hiring an experienced employment lawyer can help give you the additional protection you need. When you work with our firm, you can be confident that our legal team has the legal skills and knowledge necessary to protect your rights.
For help with your case, contact Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP to discuss your situation with our Houston employment law attorneys.