What Does it Mean to be a Whistleblower?

In the employment context, a whistleblower is a person who exposes the misconduct being performed by, or on the behalf of, his or her employer.  Often, the misconduct that a whistleblower brings to light is some sort of illegal activity, such as unlawful discrimination or other illegal job practices.  In other situations whistleblowers disclose activity that is simply immoral, dishonest, fraudulent, or unfair.  Whistleblowers can also sometimes report violations of local health and safety standards.

 

Employers usually do not like when their misconduct or illegal activity is exposed.  Whistleblowers, however, are often protected against retaliation for their whistleblowing activity.  In order to be protected by the law, a whistleblower’s complaint must be based on a reasonable believe that his or her employer is engaged in a questionable activity.

 

In situations where a whistleblower is protected by the law, his or her employer cannot fire, demote, refuse to pay, or take any other adverse employment action against the whistleblower in response to illegal activities or misconduct being reported.  Furthermore, whistleblowers are also allowed to cooperate with investigative authorities such as police departments and regulatory agencies in the event that they are asked to assist in any proceeding or investigation against their employer.

 

There are a variety of ways in which whistleblowers may choose to come forward with information related to an employer’s illegal or unfair activities.  Employees may make internal claims within their organization, or they may make external claims to regulatory agencies, law enforcement groups, or the media.   Regardless of the reporting method used, the law protects whistleblowers so long as they make their report in good faith.

 

If you think your employer is guilty of misconduct or other illegal activity, you may be placed in a difficult situation.  These tough situations require careful thought, and may also require legal advice.  If you need help in determining whether you should report possible illegal activity, or if you need assistance in understanding your rights, an experienced employment attorney can help.  With legal assistance, you can also protect your rights if your employer has unlawfully retaliated against you for your whistleblowing activity.