What Is Whistleblower Retaliation?

If you are considering being a whistleblower against your organization to report waste, fraud, or abuse, you may be concerned about the fallout. However, whistleblower retaliation laws provide many safeguards against adverse actions being taken against you.

Find out more about whistleblower retaliation in this article, and speak to our Nix Patterson whistleblower attorneys if you think you have a case. Our lawyers have successfully handled many whistleblower and False Claims Act (FCA) cases, including Special Surgical Hospital False Claims Recovery for $72.3 million.

What Is a Whistleblower?

A whistleblower is an employee who reports fraud, waste, abuse, or illegal activities to light. Whistleblowing often involves employees of large government agencies and companies. Whistleblowers are vital in pinpointing potential illegal activities that state and federal governments have missed and would not have discovered, if not for the whistleblower’s actions.

What Is Whistleblower Retaliation?

Whistleblowers may face retaliation in the workplace for reporting possible illegal or unethical behavior, whether it’s to a manager, government regulations, or via an organizational compliance system. Whistleblower retaliation can happen in many ways:

  • Demotions
  • Terminations
  • Pay cuts
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Negative reviews and references to complicate your job search

Whistleblower Retaliation Laws

The U.S. Congress recognizes that whistleblowers must be protected because retaliation is a constant threat. The FCA, Dodd-Frank Act, and other laws offer whistleblower protections and allow them to obtain compensation if retaliation occurs. In addition, the False Claims Act outlaws fraud against the government and has an anti-retaliation provision to protect whistleblowers who bring qui tam lawsuits.

If a whistleblower reports illicit activity to the SEC, they are protected by the Dodd-Frank Act. The SEC also has taken many steps to safeguard whistleblowers who are retaliated against at work.

The FCA protects both employees and contractors against retaliation efforts. Whistleblowers who take legal steps with a whistleblower retaliation attorney to bring an FCA action are covered by the law. The False Claim Act states that if the worker or contractor is fired, demoted, suspended, harassed, or threatened, they can sue for compensation.

If there is retaliation in the workplace, the employee is entitled to all appropriate relief to make them whole, the FCA states. This means potential reinstatement, double back pay, back pay interest, legal fee reimbursement, and possibly special damages.

Many other federal laws protect you from whistleblower retaliation:

  • Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • Rehabilitation Act
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Whistleblower Protection Act

Protected Whistleblowing Under Whistleblower Retaliation Laws

If you decide to blow the whistle on possibly illegal or corrupt practices, you probably wonder what types of actions may receive retaliation protection. Some of the protected whistleblowing activities involve exposure of the following in an organization:

  • Corruption
  • Discrimination and harassment
  • Fraud
  • Human rights violations
  • Crimes and violations of the law
  • Insider trading
  • Mishandling of data
  • Poor governance and mismanagement

Two types of whistleblowing also are protected from retaliation by the organization or employer:

  • Internal whistleblowing. When the employee alerts someone in the organization about wrongdoing in the workplace. In many cases, this is a senior manager or related professional.
  • External whistleblowing. Informing a third party, such as the police, media, or government agency about corruption or wrongdoing. This is different than internal because it informs the authorities, which the government will choose.

How Do You Prove Whistleblower Retaliation?

Your Nix Patterson whistleblower retaliation attorney will try to prove you suffered an adverse action because of your protected activity. The standard for establishing the link depends on the law. Whistleblowing is a contributing factor. It needs to be a “but for” reason. The organization must know about the whistleblowing activity to take an adverse action, but the person retaliating does not always know.

Some organizations will be direct about causation. For instance, your boss may demote you for ‘snitching’ on them, but more often, there is circumstantial evidence, such as when someone is let go after filing a complaint to the SEC.

Organizations may claim that they took action against you for a legitimate cause, such as recent poor work performance. Depending on the causation standard, your attorney may have limited difficulty overcoming this tactic.

Other Protections Against Whistleblower Retaliation

Besides state and federal laws, whistleblowers in many states may have additional protections under the common-law doctrine called the “public policy exception.” This refers to an exception to the general rule that, in the absence of an agreement that states otherwise, organizations can fire you for any reason.

The public-policy exception differs from state to state, and some states don’t recognize it. However, it usually means that courts can sanction organizations for disciplining whistleblowers who reveal wrongdoing that must be exposed for the public’s good. This doctrine exists because whistleblowing is viewed as a societal good that should not be limited by retaliation or intimidation.

Considerations for a Whistleblower Case

This article makes it clear: Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation. But how do you know you have a good case? Here are some tips:

  • Be certain. Make sure you have a strong case that involves a criminal offense, ethical breaches, or health and safety violations.
  • Only report pertinent issues. For example, a whistleblower case isn’t appropriate for a complaint about your supervisor.
  • Report to the right channel. Check with your company’s HR department or other appropriate department to determine how and to whom to report your concerns.
  • Think twice about reporting fraud internally. If there is ongoing fraud in your company, it may be better to report your concerns to the appropriate state or federal government agency. Staying quiet and gathering information could be essential to proving the case.
  • Escalate the matter if needed. If your organization does not act, determine the regulatory body you should involve.

Contact Our Whistleblower Attorneys Today

You don’t have to suffer in silence if you have been retaliated against for whistleblowing. You may be protected from being fired, demoted, or disciplined by your company for reporting fraud and corruption. For more information, speak to our whistleblower and FCA attorneys at Nix Patterson today.

Related Articles