One way society keeps businesses honest is to allow employees to blow the whistle on wrongdoing at their workplaces. Given that employers may retaliate against whistleblowers, there are a variety of laws to protect whistleblowing activity, provided that the whistleblower has submitted a complaint covered by the law.
In addition to state whistleblower laws, there are 22 federal laws that offer whistleblower protections. These laws describe types of misconduct that a whistleblower can report and receive legal protection.
Illegal conduct against employees
There are various laws to protect the rights of employees. In the event a workplace violates these rights, a whistleblower may expose the misconduct. Examples include the following:
- Not paying a worker required wages
- Violating work-hour laws
- Sexual harassment of an employee
- Discrimination against an employee
- Retaliation against another whistleblower
In general, whistleblowers can report on employer actions done purposely that negatively impact the health and welfare of a worker. In the event of an unsafe or environmentally hazardous workplace, whistleblowers may submit a report to OHSA.
Some whistleblowers observe violations of financial laws in a business, such as Ponzi schemes, embezzlement, and fraudulent accounting. Whistleblowers who discover wrongdoing against shareholders usually take their complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Employees who find that their company has defrauded the federal government can take action under the False Claims Act.
Since there are different laws governing whistleblowing, you should be aware of any other limits on making a complaint, such as your timing. You might not receive legal protection from retaliation if you make a complaint long after an illegal activity has taken place. See which laws apply to your specific situation so you know how to proceed.