A whistleblower is any person who reports misconduct within an organization, such as fraud or illegal activity. Whistleblower retaliation is a real concern for those who fear reprisals from their employers for speaking out about wrongdoing. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect whistleblowers, both at the federal and state levels.
The Employee Protection Provision
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) of 1970 includes the Employee Protection Provision, which protects whistleblower employees from being terminated or otherwise discriminated against by their employers. This provision covers any employee who reports a violation of an OSHA safety rule, the whistleblower’s own employer, or another company with whom they have a business relationship. Additionally, the Employee Protection Provision makes it illegal for employers to threaten, intimidate or coerce employees who are considering reporting any violations of law, regulation, or whistleblower protection.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002 provides additional whistleblower protections to those who report corporate fraud and other illegal activities. This Act makes it illegal to retaliate against whistleblowers, including termination, suspension, demotion or any other form of discrimination. It also provides whistleblower employees with a private right of action in which they can seek damages for retaliatory actions taken by their employers. That means whistleblower employees can take their whistleblower cases to court and sue for damages, including lost wages, benefits or other compensation.
State whistleblower laws
In California, for example, employees may be protected from whistleblower retaliation for reporting a violation of the law or their employer’s policies. The whistleblower must have reasonable cause to believe that their report was accurate and that retaliation ensued because of it in order for them to be protected under whistleblower laws. On top of providing whistleblower employees with legal protection, some states may also offer financial compensation or other rewards for those who report instances of misconduct.
Overall, whistleblower laws offer important protections for those who have the courage to speak up and report wrongdoing within their organizations. By understanding the various whistleblower protection laws that are available, whistleblowers can better protect themselves from retaliation.