Tips to protect yourself as a whistleblower
When you discover evidence that your employer is engaging in illegal or unethical activities or your employer has instructed you to perform unlawful acts, you may make the brave decision to report your employer to the authorities. But doing so may subject you to retaliation by your employer, leading to emotional distress and potential financial repercussions. Fortunately, federal and state laws have been adopted to provide legal protections to whistleblowers. Keep reading to learn more.
What Protections Do Whistleblowers Have?
Various state and federal laws protect whistleblowers, including offering them a way to report illegal or unethical activity and allowing them to recover compensation for losses caused by an employer’s retaliation. Important whistleblower statutes include:
- The Whistleblower Protection Act and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which provides protection to federal employees
- The Georgia Whistleblower Protection Act, protecting state employees
- The False Claims Act, which permits people to report fraud resulting in financial loss to the federal government
- The Dodd-Frank Act, which set up whistleblower programs for securities and financial law violations
- IRS Whistleblower Law, allowing people to report tax fraud
- Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which covers whistleblowing with respect to accounting practices and bribery
Six Tips to Protect Yourself as a Whistleblower
If you decide to disclose information about fraud, corruption, or other wrongdoing or unlawful activity at your employer, you should keep these tips in mind to help protect your interests:
- Learn what is considered “protected activity” under applicable whistleblower laws. Typically, reporting or refusing to violate a law, rule, or regulation will be considered protected activity. Complaining about violations of internal company policies or bad business decisions is usually not protected under whistleblower laws.
- Know when you must file a lawsuit on your whistleblower claim. If you have been subjected to retaliation for whistleblowing, you have limited time to file a complaint against your employer under the statute of limitations. Usually, the limitations period begins on the day that you were retaliated against or the date you learned of the retaliatory action. Each whistleblower law has its own statute of limitations.
- You can often “blow the whistle” anonymously. Because an employer can only retaliate against an employee that it knows or suspects was engaged in whistleblowing activity, many government agencies will agree to conceal your identity if you file a whistleblower complaint.
- Collect evidence to support your allegations. Your allegations have a better chance of being taken seriously if you have hard evidence. This evidence can take the form of documents, copies of emails and written correspondence, or contemporaneous notes. Keep your evidence on your own private devices, as your employer can always terminate your access to a work computer or work phone. However, consult with an attorney before you decide to make copies of confidential documents or record conversations. Doing so might constitute a violation of privacy or intellectual property laws.
- Be on your best behavior. Many employers contest whistleblower lawsuits by arguing that they terminated an employee for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons. If you give your employer a legitimate reason to terminate you, such as poor performance or bad behavior, you will have a much harder time arguing that you were fired for a pretextual reason.
- Quit your job only as a last resort. If you feel like you are being targeted for blowing the whistle on your employer, don’t immediately assume that you should just resign to “get it over with.” Resigning can make it harder to obtain relief in a whistleblower lawsuit, especially if you cannot show that you were subjected to an adverse employment action. Quitting under such circumstances can also negatively impact your employment prospects in the future.
How a Lawyer Could Help
When you have been targeted for whistleblower retaliation by your employer, an employment lawyer can help you demand accountability and justice by:
- Explaining your legal rights and protections to you
- Assisting you with safely and lawfully collecting evidence to support your whistleblowing allegations
- Representing you in communications with government and law enforcement agencies
- Pursuing a legal claim or lawsuit on your behalf if you are subjected to retaliatory actions by your employer that cause you financial or personal losses
Contact The Vaughn Law Firm
Contact The Vaughn Law Firm today for a free, confidential consultation if you have been subject to retaliation or adverse employment actions after disclosing your employer’s fraud, abuse, waste, or illegal activity. We have years of experience fighting for employee rights, and we seek the best results for our clients. A Georgia employer lawyer can discuss how our firm could advocate for your rights and help recover financial losses you may have incurred due to the violation of your whistleblower rights.