Whistleblower Protection Laws, based on the False Claims Act, are intended to prevent retaliation against federal workers and private citizens who speak out regarding crimes, ethical violations, and other illegal behavior committed against the public interest. It’s true that these laws can bring compensation, but it’s important to know more than that fact alone. To gain an understanding about the types of protection the laws provide, let’s take a look at some of the better-known whistleblowers of our time.
What words come to mind when you hear these three names: Edward Snowden, Deep Throat, and Linda Tripp? These notorious whistleblowers’ names invoke varying emotions, based on your personal views.
Did Snowden betray his government or was he following a higher calling of “the people deserve the truth?” He’s been living in asylum in Russia, via Hong Kong, ever since he leaked classified documents regarding private citizen surveillance. Snowden calls it whistleblowing; the US government calls it espionage.
In 1974, a man known as Deep Throat, FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt, played a critical role in what came to be known as Watergate and led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974. He revealed himself as the infamous source for reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, but not until 30 years after the events took place.
Then, of course, there’s Linda Tripp. She announced the scandal about Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton and the whole sordid blue dress affair. She got fired – and won a $600,000 lawsuit as a result of that retaliation by the Clinton administration.
Who Are the Whistleblowers in Protection Laws?
The definition of a whistleblower is a person who tells police, reporters, etc., about something (such as a crime) that has been kept secret; one who reveals something covert or who informs against another. According to the Whistleblower Protection Laws, whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by law.
In a case like Ms. Tripp’s, protection comes in the form of financial compensation, but not until both her reputation and her career fell to ruins. The number two man at the FBI, Mark Felt, kept his identity as Nixon’s whistleblower secret for nearly the rest of his life. Snowden will likely never set foot on U.S. soil again.
It’s no secret you can pay a pretty steep price for being a whistleblower. There will always be stories, some true and some not, about retaliation including everything from being re-assigned to a windowless, basement office to losing jobs and being blacklisted throughout the industry.
What Are Whistleblower Protection Laws?
Whistleblower protection laws are based on the False Claims Act, which was amended by Congress in 1986 to provide protection to people who report abuses, misconduct, and crimes in government agencies.
Originally, whistleblowers had to be federal employees, but this amendment opened the door to private citizen protection as well to encourage transparency and enforcement of laws. There are a variety of different whistleblower protection laws throughout government agencies. They can be federal laws or state laws.
The IRS Whistleblower Program pulled from the Tax Relief and Health Act of 2006, provides rewards to the people who provide first-hand information on tax evasion practices from 15 – 30% of the amount recovered in cases valued at $2 million or more. The Program is intended to encourage citizens to come to the IRS with information about tax evasion.
Whistleblower protection provisions are written into many other laws, offering protection to workers in nearly any industry and government agency. They are continually being added, amended, and updated to provide greater protection against retaliation. For example:
- OSHA has created whistleblower protection laws to protect those reporting safety violations.
- The Dodd-Frank Act protects reporters of violation of securities laws.
- The Presidential Policy Directive 19 protects against retaliation for those in the Intelligence agencies.
If an employer retaliates against an employee for reporting abuse, these laws provide protections, but only if the employee can prove retaliation came as a result of the reporting. The adverse action cannot connect to any other aspect of the employee’s job. This distinction can lead employers to create other reasons for the adverse action taken to dismiss the protection afforded by Whistleblower’s Protection laws.
Is There a Time Limit on Whistleblower Protection Laws?
Whistleblower protection laws do include statutes of limitations regarding time to file a complaint. These time constraints vary according to the industry and the particulars of the violations. Some whistleblower protection laws are state legislation as well as federal statutes, and the statute of limitations does apply. Ten years is the absolute outside limit, but generally, six years from when the offense was committed is considered the limit.
Whistleblower protection laws are complex and variable from situation to situation. It’s important to have an attorney with extensive experience in false claims acts and whistleblowing protection. An attorney who works solely with false claims acts will be an invaluable asset when pursuing a claim, so it’s always wise to consult such an attorney from the very beginning of your case.
Contact the skilled whistleblower protection laws attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.