Need to know more about whistleblowing or the whistleblower protection policy? If you are in the beginning stages of researching, the information can seem complex overwhelming. Let’s break it down for you so you can learn more about the protection in place should you decide to move forward with a whistleblowing case.
Whistleblowing is the term for bringing a legal case, called a qui tam, on behalf of the government, against a company who is committing fraud. Typical examples include things like Medicare fraud or defense contract fraud. However, there are several types of fraud occurring in numerous industries. The regulations regarding how and when you need to report the fraud vary according to industry and location, so it’s important to work with an attorney who understands these complexities.
People often avoid whistleblowing due to fear of retaliation, such as the loss of a job or possible loss of promotion or benefits. Fortunately, the government has provided protections against such retaliation. These policies were designed to keep a whistleblower from being punished for revealing fraudulent business practices. But how powerful are these protections? Will they prevent you from losing your very livelihood?
Whistleblower Protection Policies Are Extensive
Employers cannot legally take what is termed “adverse action” against workers who report fraudulent activities. According to the US Department of Labor, these measures include:
- Firing or laying off
- Reducing pay or hours
- Blacklisting workers
- Reassigning workers to positions affecting promotion prospects
- Demoting workers
- Making any threats
- Denying overtime or any promotion
- Intimidation or harassment
- Discipline an employee due to reporting
- Failure to hire or rehire
- Denying benefits
While it seems these protections cover any possible job-related problems, the real question is, do they work? If your employer does fire you from your job or denies you compensation or benefits, what recourse do you have?
What Types of Actions Does Whistleblower Protection Cover?
The laws protecting whistleblowers vary widely; some of the laws only cover a complaint to a particular agency. Some laws require an employee to notify their employers before they file a claim, so the employer has a chance to correct the wrongdoing. In recent years, one court ruled that telling the boss you were going to sue for overtime is NOT protected; only filing the complaint is protected.
The point is it can be incredibly confusing trying to make sense of all the different laws. It’s even more difficult to follow the law if you don’t know what it is! Protection only works if you know how to use it.
Imagine being caught in a wave tossing storm out on a huge lake in a tiny little rowboat. As the water comes pouring over the sides, you are going to want a life jacket if you capsize. What if you didn’t bring one along because you didn’t know where they were? The sad fact is you’d be treading some pretty ugly waters, only because you didn’t know a thing about what could protect you. It works the same way with the law.
How Can I Get Whistleblower Protection If I Don’t Know the Law?
Just like you can get some fantastic Italian food by going to an excellent restaurant with a chef straight from Tuscany, you can also get all the safety and protection you need when you file a whistleblower case by hiring an attorney who knows the lay of the land.
You may think the only thing you need to consider when hiring an attorney for your whistleblower case is their win/loss record in court cases. This myth is just not true. There are some huge variables in whistleblowing that you need to consider before you make a decision. When you think of all the types of fraud, the many different industries involved, and the details of what constitutes fraud in each one, there is a lot at stake. When you add in the huge variation in the protection laws, well, the level of knowledge and information needed to keep you safe is pushing astronomical. Do you want an attorney who spends their time settling divorces or DUIs to be your ace in the hole?
It’s important to find an attorney who knows all the details of an effective whistleblower strategy. It’s even more important to make sure your attorney can protect you from retaliation fallout that could leave your career smashed to smithereens. Because these laws are different from industry to industry, you need the guidance of someone who can direct you to the step-by-step actions to take for protection. The laws also differ from state to state, so make sure you don’t bypass the process of finding an attorney who knows how to help you.
The right attorney will not only make sure to file your complaint with every detail completed correctly, but he or she will also strive to keep you protected in your job. Learn more about whistleblower protection policy by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.