If you suspect that there is waste, fraud, corruption, or abuse occurring inside a company, your natural reaction will likely be to report it. Reporting such acts to the authorities can help protect innocent victims from being harmed by this misconduct. Unfortunately, it can also subject you to discrimination in the workplace. There are legal protections for those who make protected reports under existing whistleblower laws. If you suspect there is misconduct in your place of employment, it is important to consult with a whistleblower attorney before you make any disclosures.
An attorney will help you make the right disclosures to the right authorities at the right time to ensure that your legal rights as a whistleblower are protected. An attorney can also help protect you from retaliation by ensuring that your employer knows you intend to enforce your whistleblower rights.
There is no single definition of a “whistleblower” contained in a single statute. The term broadly applies to anyone who discloses waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, and other misconduct within an organization. This is usually an employee, but it does not have to be. Anyone with insider knowledge can be protected as a whistleblower if their information is disclosed properly.
The information must be disclosed to someone who is in a position to remedy the wrongdoing. This could be a local police agency, the IRS, the EPA, or other government agencies that oversee the organization’s business. It is important to consult with an attorney about what disclosures you make – and to whom they are made. If you make disclosures that are not protected by whistleblower laws, your employer could be able to retaliate against you without breaking any laws.
So how does the law protect whistleblowers? Whistleblower protections are written into specific statutes on specific topics. For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is a financial accountability law that was enacted as a result of the Enron scandal. This law provides protections to employees who report financial wrongdoing that violates the Act. Whistleblowing is not restricted to financial wrongdoing: the Clear Air Act and Antarctic Conservation Act both protect whistleblowers who report environmental wrongdoing. Each of these laws has its own unique provisions.
This is why you must check with a lawyer before making any disclosures as a whistleblower. If you do not know which law protects you, you could fail to meet its requirements for whistleblower protection. Having a legal strategy in place will ensure that your disclosures are protected, that your employer knows you are protected from retaliation, and that you are prepared to enforce your legal rights as a whistleblower if necessary.
The experienced employment lawyers at Olivier Schreiber & Chao LLP have years of experience handling whistleblower cases. Our San Francisco whistleblower attorneys work to protect employees’ legal rights to be free from retaliation when acting as a protected whistleblower. Visit our website to schedule your consultation today.
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