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A whistleblower is anyone who has and reports insider knowledge of illegal activities occurring in an organization. Often the term is used to refer to anyone who risks their job, reputation, or other consequences by blowing the whistle. This article will discuss why people blow the whistle, how to become a whistleblower, common reasons why people choose to blow the whistle on their organization, protections for whistleblowers, and where you can find resources for further help.
What Is Whistleblowing?
The term “whistleblower” derives from the image of an employee loudly blowing their whistle to alert others that a serious problem exists in the organization. Whistleblowers reveal potentially unethical and illegal practices or illegal behavior by offering facts and evidence — sometimes at great risk to their jobs, reputations, or other consequences. If you report unethical practices to your employer, you are not automatically considered a whistleblower. Whistleblowing is when you report unethical practices to someone outside of your organization, such as a government agency through an experienced whistleblower attorney.
Why People Blow the Whistle
People blow the whistle for several reasons. Some may see unethical or illegal practices that put people at risk. Other whistleblowers might be employees of government agencies, universities, or large corporations who want to stop illegal or unethical practices that are wasting taxpayer money or harming the public. People may also blow the whistle to force their employers to take action against discrimination or sexual harassment or other illegal business practice. While employees who report wrongdoing should be protected from retaliation by their employer, many choose to go outside of their organization because they believe their employer will not take appropriate action and/or because they fear retaliation by their employer.
How to Become a Whistleblower
If you have information about misconduct that is preventing your organization from achieving its goals, or about illegal practices, you can still be anonymous when you report it. Some whistleblowers choose to remain anonymous because they are concerned about retaliation from their organization. Reporting misconduct to an outside organization such as a federal agency can help protect whistleblowers from retaliation. If you decide to blow the whistle, you should first talk with an experienced whistleblower attorney. If you decide to report misconduct, you can choose to report it anonymously or not. You can also report it to your employer or other internal channels first, but if you do not think these channels will be effective, you can report it anonymously to an outside agency such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or the U.S. Department of Justice through your whistleblower attorney.
When You Should Blow the Whistle
You should consider blowing the whistle if you believe that illegal or unethical practices are preventing your organization from achieving its goals. These practices may include discrimination, fraud, the use of unnecessary secrecy, or the unjustified use of power. If you see these kinds of practices happening in your organization, you may be obligated to report them. If you are unsure if what you are witnessing constitutes misconduct or illegal activities, you can talk with others in your organization about your concerns. You can also talk with outside sources such as a whistleblower attorney who can advise you on the law and the process of being a whistleblower.
Organizational Misconduct That May Justify Blowing the Whistle
Organizational misconduct can include many practices, including - Discrimination: The use of power to illegally harm another person based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or other personal characteristics. - Fraud: The use of deception or unethical practices that harms people financially. - The use of unnecessary secrecy: Secrecy that does not serve a legitimate purpose and that may prevent an organization from being held accountable for its unlawful actions. - The unjustified use of power: Behavior that intentionally abuses power, such as nepotism or the giving of unwarranted negative performance reviews and reprimands. - Violations of laws and regulations: Conduct that violates laws, codes or regulations.
What are Protections for Whistleblowers
The government affords certain protections for whistleblowers. The False Claims Act protects against retaliation: Whistleblowers may not be harassed, threatened, demoted, fired, or otherwise discriminated against because they decided to come forward. If you have been treated unjustly because you spoke out, you can file a lawsuit against your employer seeking damages including reinstatement (if you were fired) and back pay. Even if your claim turns out to be unsubstantiated, you are protected against retaliation provided your claim was made in good faith.
If you have knowledge of fraud against or illegal conduct at your job and you are considering blowing the whistle, contact Timothy L. Miles. The consultation is free and confidential. Please also visit our Resources center which provides a wealth of whistleblower information. Call today and see what a whistleblower attorney can do for you.
Timothy L. Miles
Timothy L. Miles is a nationally recognized shareholder rights attorney raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Miles was recentely selected by Martindale-Hubbell® and ALM as a 2022 Top Ranked Lawyer, 2022 Top Rated Litigator. and a 2022 Elite Lawyer of the South. Mr. Miles also maintains the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®, their highest rating for both legal ability and ethics. Mr. Miles is a member of the prestigious Top 100 Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers: The National Trial Lawyers Association, a superb rated attorney by Avvo, a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by Premier Lawyers of America (2019) and recognized as a Distinguished Lawyer, Recognizing Excellence in Securities Law, by Lawyers of Distinction (2019).
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