Numerous federal and state laws aim to protect the rights of workers. Workers have the right to demand a harassment-free and discrimination-free workplace. They have the right to a safe work environment that complies with industry regulations. They also have the right to be free from retaliation if they speak up over major issues and lawbreaking in the workplace.
Whistleblower protections reduce the risk that people take by speaking up when they learn that their employer has done something wrong. Rather than turning a blind eye to misconduct by a co-worker, manager or entire department at the company, the worker speaks up in the hope that things will change. When they do, they have certain protections against adverse career decisions by their employer.
What kind of activities might constitute whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing often involves reporting an issue externally
Often, an employee who learns about illegal accounting practices or similar issues at their job will make a report directly to the appropriate federal or state regulatory agency. They may provide evidence of the misconduct or just testimony that leads to an investigation.
In some cases, such as those involving false claims against federal insurance programs or railroad funds, a worker might bring a Qui Tam lawsuit on behalf of the government over illegal billing practices.
Alerting an outside authority is the most standard definition of whistleblowing. Such a step ensures that someone unrelated to the company can hold the business accountable for violating safety laws, anti-discrimination laws or any other violation of its legal obligation to the public, its workers and the government.
Workers also have protection when they report issues internally
Sometimes, employees will try to address issues internally rather than involving an outside enforcement agency. They may worry that reporting something externally could hurt the company or cost them their job, so they try to address the issue from within by reporting the problem to a manager, executive or human resources professional.