Legal Protections for Whistleblowers
Whistleblowing is often an act of conscience, by men and women who would not necessarily choose this role for themselves but find themselves in it by accident.
Choosing To Become A Whistleblower
Most whistleblowers do not start out intending to become whistleblowers. And the choice can be a difficult one. Not everyone has the courage. Denial and avoidance are often easier. But typically, those who decide to become whistleblowers feel morally compelled to speak out. They are simply unwilling to participate in a cover-up, condone or perpetuate lies, ignore illegality or dangers to the public, or turn a blind eye to profiteers and fraudsters committing scams at the taxpayers’ expense.
You’re Not Alone
Sometimes, whistleblowers are emboldened or inspired by the example of others: by men and women like Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco company executive who exposed how tobacco companies knew all along that their products caused cancer and that nicotine was addictive; Frank Serpico, who revealed widespread corruption and bribery in the NYPD in the early 1970’s; Sherron Watkins, the Enron Corporation Vice President who blew the whistle on one of the largest accounting frauds in history; W. Mark Felt, the former FBI official who became “Deep Throat,” revealing President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover-up to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Daniel Ellsberg, the former U.S. Military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers, disclosing that four White House administrations, from Truman to Johnson, had misled the public about Vietnam; or Peter Buxtun, who exposed the Tuskegee Institute syphilis experiment, conducted on subjects who had never consented and were never told of the consequences of the treatment or non-treatment they would receive.
For many whistleblowers, fear of retaliation is one of the biggest concerns. To address that concern, Congress has provided whistleblowers under the False Claims Act with among the strongest protections against retaliation available under any law.
Subsection 3730(h) of the federal False Claims Act makes it illegal for any employer (or former employer) to discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or “in any other manner discriminate” against a whistleblower in retaliation for lawful efforts: (a) to stop violations of the False Claims Act, or (b) in furtherance of bringing a lawsuit under the Act. As a result, smart employers think twice before even considering retaliation. They know that the penalties are stiff: the False Claims Act makes employers who retaliate liable for “all relief” necessary to make a whistleblower “whole,” including double the amount of back pay owed, plus: interest on the back pay, “special” damages, litigation costs and attorneys’ fees, and reinstatement with full seniority. Many state false claims acts provide very similar protections.
Retaliation can and sometimes does occur. But Congress has provided robust legal protections against retaliation and stiff penalties for it.
We’re Here to Help
At Whistleblower Advocates, we are very serious about providing our clients with the very strongest available protections against the risk of retaliation.