A whistleblower is a person who informs on or exposes the wrongdoings of an organization or group of people. A whistleblower is commonly an employee of an organization who raises concerns about the practices of their employer in the hopes of stopping the questionable act. In the past it was common for individuals not to report their employer out of fear of retaliation, which allowed for several illegal acts to persist because not many employees would have risked their job to report their employer.
The federal government, the state of California, and various other states, have adopted variations of the whistleblower protection laws which are meant to protect employees from retaliation or losing their job because they tried to do the right thing. The law is very clear about the treatment of whistleblowers and offers protection for any good faith effort by an employee to raise issues of concern. This means that even if accusations against an employer are wrong, no retaliation can be sought so long as the accusations were made in good faith. After an employee blows the whistle on their employer, the employee may not be treated any differently than usual. Any person or organization who retaliates against or harasses a whistleblower may be prosecuted or sued civilly, depending on the severity and seriousness of the offense and the jurisdiction in which the offense took place.
Whistleblower protection laws are meant to keep organizations honest. There are no better people to keep an organization honest than those within an organization who know the inner workings of the organization and the details of the questionable act. Any person who believes that their employer is breaking the law should report their employer to the proper regulatory or law enforcement agency. If a person is unsure about whether or not the act that is being committed is actually illegal, an experienced attorney specializing in employee / employer issues may be consulted prior to reporting. There is no legal requirement for a whistleblower to consult with an attorney, but generally a person will want to be sure that the action they are reporting on is actually illegal just for the sake of avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation at work. An attorney can guide a whistleblower through the necessary steps to bring an organization to justice while ensuring that the rights of the whistleblower are not infringed upon. The attorney can be consulted if the whistleblower feels they are being retaliated against for any reason and can prepare the necessary documents to prevent employers from mistreating the informant. In many cases a strongly worded letter can be enough to stop the harassment of an employer, but if simple tactics like this fail, the attorney can prepare their client for litigation.
No illegal act should go unreported. When illegal acts do go unreported, lives and livelihoods are placed at risk. If you have any information about an illegal act taking place in an organization, don’t hesitate to inform the proper authorities or consult a lawyer for advice. Individuals who fail to blow the whistle may be considered just as guilty as those who have committed the unlawful act.