To understand whistleblower laws, you should understand where the term came from. There is a history behind a “whistleblower,” which stems from an English police officer blowing his whistle to alert other law enforcement officers of danger. Nowadays, the term refers to somebody who works for a company and sees wrongdoing, so they report it either internally or externally depending on the situation. Usually these cases will involve things like tax evasion, malpractice, health threats, safety violations, and more – and in the end, the whistleblower will sometimes receive a percentage of the lawsuit settlement funds if there are any.
There is a Difference Between Whistleblowing and Retaliation Laws.
Claims brought on by whistleblowers will sometimes involve retaliation by an employer, this much is true. However, there is a difference between the two types of claims. Whistleblowing complaints specifically focus on prohibited conduct that is happening in a business that could cause damage to public safety, and seldom include an employer’s retaliation for complaints about personal dislikes. However, they are interchangeable when they involve laws governing the workplace that guarantee rights to a worker.
There are also whistleblowing cases that take action against the federal government, known as Qui Tam Whistleblower lawsuits. Virtually any situation where a company has defrauded the government comes under the False Claims Act, including things like Medicare fraud and pharmaceutical fraud. Billions of dollars have come reimbursed from these lawsuits and, in these cases, the whistleblowers receive a percentage of the settlement as well. The downside is that many whistleblowers will unfortunately lose their jobs or be harassed and ostracized by other employees.
In July 2010, an act went into effect known as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This act contained increased incentives for security fraud whistleblowers. Then, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rewards those who expose the fraud.
The laws and statute of limitations for whistleblowing cases may vary. Here are some of the situations in which you might see:
- Employees or former employees may have up to 300 days to file a discrimination case against the company that started the whistleblowing.
- Those in an environmental setting have 30 days to make a written complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for investigation.
- If civil rights laws have been violated by the federal government, a federal employee will only have 45 days to make a written complaint to their equal employment opportunity (EEO) officer.
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Popular Whistleblower Cases
- Vice President of Enron, Sherron Watkins blew the whistle on Enron’s major accounting cover-up in 2001. It was found that billions of dollars in debt was hidden, shareholders were lied to, and they had avoided paying federal income tax for years.
- A former FBI official leaked information about President Richard Nixon’s association with Watergate.
- Somebody whistleblew on TAP Pharmaceuticals, in which they had to pay $875 million to settle criminal charges thereafter.
If you have witnessed illegal behavior brought on by a company and believe you should tell somebody about it, there are a variety of steps that you can take. However, it may be in your best interest to speak to an attorney that knows their way around the laws and regulations. We will handle your case confidentially and give you options on how to proceed. Call Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi today for more information!
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