Whistleblower Protection in the United States

April 17, 2023

Whistleblowers provide an important function by reporting evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, and/or mismanagement that they reasonably believe exists. There are various statutes that protect whistleblowers, but to invoke them depends on your umbrella statute that protects whistleblowers, so it’s critical to identify, what whistleblower protections, if any, you may be entitled to by examining the various federal and state protections.   For example, if you were reporting systemic fraud against the government, then if you blow the whistle the right way you’d be entitled to a percentage of what the government recovers as a whistleblower award under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), as well as the initial cloak of secrecy for some time after you file and protections under the anti-retaliation provisions.  Other statutes like the SEC whistleblower statute, CFTC whistleblower statute, AML whistleblower statute and NHTSA whistleblower statue, provide protection since with the use of a whistleblower law firm you can potentially remain anonymous from start to finish. 

The converse is true too, if you think you’re blowing the whistle on something, unless the whistle blow is done by invoking the correct statute you may have no protections and find yourself terminated with cause.  For example, if you were complaining that the company in its bylaws is supposed to use magenta colored paper in emergencies, but it actually uses hot pink and demand that the company comply with its bylaws, there’s no federal statute that would protect you and its doubtful that you’d be entitled to state whistleblower protections too.  Thus, it’s critical to understand based on the information that you possess whether you’re in fact, blowing the whistle and if so, what protections you can look forward to. 

Whistleblower protection: United States

What are the programs designed to protect whistleblowers in the US?

Whistleblower protection programs were created to protect whistleblowers from suffering retaliation from their employers as a result of blowing the whistle. Furthermore certain statutes like the FCA, SEC, CFTC, AML, NHTSA and IRS provide incentives to whistleblowers who come forward and report fraud if the information results in a fine or recovery. 

In some cases, you can only enjoy anonymity through the use of a law firm, for example you need an SEC whistleblower law firm to enjoy anonymity through that program.  In others, such as the False Claims Act, you can’t even file unless you have a qui tam law firm. Established whistleblower law firms with a wide breadth of experience, such as Brown, LLC, often provide free confidential consultations so you can understand your rights and determine whether or not your case is viable and worth proceeding, or at least enjoy one firm’s interpretation.  

What programs exist in the US to provide protection for whistleblowers?

In the United States, whistleblowers are protected by several federal laws, including the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the Dodd-Frank Act, however they do not provide blanket protections and you must understand first if you qualify as a whistleblower under it and if you qualify for protections under it. Furthermore, many states have their own whistleblower laws which protect whistleblowers.

Sarbanes- Oxley Act

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”), which Congress passed in 2002, protects workers of publicly traded companies who disclose violations of Securities and Exchange Commission rules or any federal law relating to shareholder fraud. Some of the Sarbanes-Oxley provisions were strengthened by Dodd-Frank. It established a bounty program wherein individuals who report illegal activity are entitled to 10% to 30% of the proceeds from successful SEC settlements. SOX has anti-retaliation provision that entitle a worker to damages plus attorneys’ fees and costs. 

Dodd- Frank Act

The Dodd-Frank Act gave the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the authority to control derivative trading, which are agreements between two parties on a single or a group of financial assets. Bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates, market indices, or stocks may be traded in these transactions. 

Whistleblower Protection Act (“WPA”)

The Whistleblower Protection Act provides certain protections to government employees who blow the whistle the right way.   

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Who can be a whistleblower?

Anyone who has information about certain types of wrongdoings or violation of the law by their employer or organization can be a whistleblower. A whistleblower typically works for the company or agency where the wrongdoing is taking place, but being an agency or company “insider” is not required to report it as long as you have sufficient information. You can also talk to a whistleblower law firm if you think you have a case.

What kind of misconduct can be reported by a whistleblower?

Whistleblowers can report a wide variety of misconduct including waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, or dangers to public health and safety, economic fraud against the government (False Claims Act), violations of security laws (SEC), violations of commodity laws (CFTC), violations of the safety of the national infrastructure laws (NHTSA), laundering money (AML), and many other illegal or illicit types of conduct.

How are whistleblowers protected in the US?

Whistleblowers are protected by the various mechanisms in the particulate whistleblower statute invoked and only protected in that way, so it’s critical to invoke the correct statute. 

The anti-retaliation provisions of most statutes that protect employees are meant to encourage insiders in stepping forward which prohibits the employer from taking or threatening to take disciplinary action against an employee because he or she disclosed wrongdoing. You could potentially be compensated for lost wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

What should a whistleblower do if they experience retaliation?

If you face retaliation, you should speak to a whistleblower law firm immediately to understand your rights. The whistleblower law firm may assist you in taking the necessary actions so that you are protected.  It’s best to consult with a law firm before even internally reporting the matter so you can understand your rights early and the likely trajectory of the matter.

Choosing the right whistleblower law firm

Choosing the right whistleblower lawyer can make or break your case. You need a lawyer who has handled whistleblower cases before, is familiar with whistleblower laws, has a good reputation, effective communication skills, and is available to answer your questions 

Here are some factors to consider when selecting a whistleblower lawyer.

  • Experience in whistleblower cases
  • Knowledge of whistleblower laws
  • Reputation of the firm
  • Results
  • Analogous experience to your situation

If you are thinking about reporting fraud or illegal activities at work, contact Brown, LLC today by calling (877) 561-0000 or filling out a free confidential consultation form. We represent clients all over the country and have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars. We understand that each case is unique, so we have attorneys with a wide range of whistleblower experience to best represent you.