Whistleblower Laws

There are a lot of terms in this area of law and they get used interchangeably so people do get confused.

Some have strict legal definitions and some do not.

We commonly use the term “Whistleblower” to describe a person who is reporting wrongdoing. What we call whistleblower laws are, generally, the laws that protect those people.

Some people think of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as the ultimate whistleblower law, after all, it protects your right to speak.

The Federal False Claims Act is generally considered to be a whistleblower law, perhaps the most effective one, even though it is really meant to allow for recoveries for harm perpetrated against the government.  The Federal False Claims Act includes a specific provision to protect the individual who suffers retaliation for blowing the whistle on such fraud.  It also includes a provision to reward the person who reports the fraud to the government. What makes it a little different from most whistleblower laws, is that, at least initially, it is not a public whistleblower law.  Maybe you have the right to speak under the First Amendment, but if you want to collect a reward under the False Claims Act you must first file your allegations in secret and keep them confidential initially.

This can create some tension and is hard for many people to grasp. However, it usually is beneficial to the whistleblower.  The False Claims Act litigant reports the allegations to the government, who can investigate the case and hopefully prosecute the allegations made by the whistleblower.  It is hard to fathom what if any rights are lost to the whistleblower by handling matters this way. Indeed, there is both the potential for a substantial reward and some protection in the fact that initially a whistleblower’s identity is not immediately revealed.

Whistleblower Law

Of course, The False Claims Act is by no means the only whistleblower law.  There are many federal and state laws which have been enacted to try to protect whistleblowers. As more cases come to light, is learning about the obligation we have to support whistleblowers.  To fight wrongdoing we first need to learn about it.

Whistleblowers usually often risk their jobs or their careers to fight wrongdoing.  Sometimes, all too often really, people blow the whistle before learning about their rights, because the wrongful acts are too awful to endure.  Just the stress of living with the knowledge of serious wrongdoing and not knowing how to proceed can be debilitating.  Obviously, losing any job is a serious hardship.  It can be especially difficult for many whistleblowers who learn about wrongdoing specifically because they have achieved a higher level in their profession.  After building a career involving twenty years of increasing responsibility, to say blowing the whistle is “just” a matter of risking a job, often undervalues the risk most whistleblowers decide to make.

That is why the False Claims Act and many other whistleblower laws allow suits for retaliation.  That is why virtually any whistleblower who is rewarded with a portion of the government’s recovery, no matter how large, has more than earned it.

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