What is a “Whistleblower?”

People having a meeting about whistleblowers

In the past 50 years, many laws have been passed to protect “whistleblowers.” In today’s world, our society is encouraging more and more people to step up and speak up when they see a problem.

So, what happens when an employee speaks up at their job and lets someone know about illegal conduct and then is subsequently fired for making such a report? That person is what we call a whistleblower, and they are entitled to protection under the law.


Whistleblowers report conduct to their bosses and to others

When a whistleblower speaks up about something they believe is illegal or wrong, they typically do so internally. That is, they make a report to their boss, to a human resources director, or to someone within their company who has been designated to hear reports of such wrongdoing. This is called an internal report.

In other situations, the whistleblower, either after making an internal report that is ignored, or at the outset, makes a report to someone outside of the company. They may contact a government entity such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to let them know about insider trading. Or perhaps they contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to let them know about unsafe practices in the workplace that could harm another employee. This is called an external report. Both of these types of reports can be protected under the law depending on the circumstances.

A whistleblower should not face adverse employment action

When a whistleblower is fired, demoted, or even passed over for a promotion or a bonus because of a report or illegality or wrongdoing, they are entitled to protection under the law. There is a complex web of state and federal statutes that protect the whistleblower in these circumstances, and there are too many to list here. The advantage of the sheer number of statutes involved, however, is that whistleblowers often have a weapon to fight back with when an employer wrongs them.

For example, a state employee in Pennsylvania may be protected under the State Whistleblower Act. In addition, if the person is a mandatory reporter who reports child abuse and suffers adverse employment action for it, they may be protected under the Mandatory Reporter Act. Federal statutes include the Food Safety Modernization Act, which protects those making reports of the mishandling of food in the food service industry.

Conclusion: If you’ve been discriminated against for whistleblowing, fight back!

There are too many statutes to even list here, so if you’ve been fired or otherwise discriminated against for whistleblowing, contact the attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm today. We’ll discuss your case and your options with you in a confidential, free consultation, so you know your options and the best path forward.