People who notice illegal activity have a duty to society to speak up about what they witness. In some situations, there can be very powerful factors that prevent people from doing the right thing. For example, people often worry that speaking up about misconduct could potentially cost them their jobs. For example, although many people are vaguely aware that the federal government extends whistleblower protections to those who report misconduct occurring at work, people often still fear doing the right thing. They worry their employers will fire them or refuse to promote them again in the future.
Retaliation against whistleblowers can lead to lawsuits against businesses, however, as workers should not have to fear for their future income when they decide to report illegal or unsafe workplace situations. A variety of different actions may make someone a whistleblower. What situations theoretically make someone eligible for whistleblower protection under the law?
Initiating a lawsuit on behalf of the government
Those in certain professions, including healthcare employees, sometimes have the option of taking legal action against a business on behalf of their employers. Violations of the False Claims Act through illegal billing practices would justify an employee bringing a qui tam lawsuit against their employer. Such lawsuits seek compensation for over-billing and other fraudulent activity. Successful lawsuits can lead to financial compensation for the person who initiates litigation, and filing the lawsuit will usually make them eligible for whistleblower protection.
Making an internal report
Many people would prefer to have their employers do the right thing voluntarily instead of forcing their hand by involving outside authorities. They might report misconduct ranging from illegal billing habits to unsafe work environments within the company. Reporting issues to management or human resources can make someone a whistleblower who is eligible for protection from retaliation.
Alerting government authorities
There are a variety of different regulatory agencies that investigate business misconduct and enforce the law. Individuals who believe that their employers will not take appropriate actions internally or who have already witnessed their employers ignore reports may choose to notify government authorities. Doing so will make them a whistleblower who has protection from retaliation.
Ultimately, becoming a whistleblower is an act of courage. However, these brave individuals don’t have to navigate the reporting process alone. They can seek experienced legal guidance and support at any time.