What Protections Are Afforded to Whistleblowers?

The following is taken from an interview with whistleblower attorney Tony Munter as he discusses ‘protected whistleblower activity’ and remedies retaliation against whistleblowers. To discuss your case or learn more about whistleblowing, call today and schedule a free consultation.

There are many laws that provide whistleblowers with the opportunity to sue for retaliation. Included in these laws is the right to sue for retaliation if someone has complained about fraud committed against the government. It is also possible to sue for retaliation for reporting securities fraud. These laws provide some opportunity to sue anyone who retaliates against the whistleblower. I think it’s a little bit tricky for people to understand when they see the phrase “whistleblower protection.” They may think that there is some cloak that can come down and prevent retaliation against a whistleblower, however that is not the case.

Mostly, these laws provide individuals with the right to sue and therefore it’s an imperfect world because while you can certainly sue for retaliation, one doesn’t have immediate protection from retaliation, which is an unfortunate fact. It is possible under some laws to report fraud anonymously. Under the SEC Whistleblower Law and the CFTC Whistleblower Law, it’s possible to report anonymously. And those agencies have been pretty good about protecting the whistleblower’s identity from the public. So that may afford the whistleblower additional protections, but of course the type of allegations they make have to sit within those offices’ jurisdiction.

What is “Protected Whistleblower Activity”?

Protected whistleblower activity is really something  that falls under a statute that protects a whistleblower for reporting or acting. The statue protects whistleblower activity for reporting safety violations in certain situations under many regulatory schemes and laws.

Reporting fraud to the government is another protected whistleblower activity. So, there are a myriad of statutes that provide jurisdiction for individual kinds of whistleblower activity, that may give rise to the type of activity that one could sue the defendant for taking against a plaintiff or even just somebody who wants to report wrongdoing.

 How Long are the Statutes of Limitations?

It varies. Under the Federal False Claims Act, which is the law I’m most familiar with, it is a 3-year statute of limitations for suing for retaliation, which is different from the statute limitations of the underlying fraud.

It used to vary by state to state. Congress felt that that was unwieldy and amended the False Claims Act’s  section 3730(h) to have a 3-year statute of limitations for retaliation claims which is different than for any underlying claim regarding fraud committed against the government.

What Are The Remedies for Whistleblower Retaliation?

Under the False Claims Act two times two times back pay, reinstatement damages, special damages and attorney’s fees are the standard damages. Usually, that gets a little tricky with reinstatement because at that point, as you might imagine, nobody actually gets reinstated. It’s something to fight about. It’s how much it would be worth.