Three Common Misconceptions About Whistleblower Laws Employees Need To Know

Whistleblowing is an area of employee law and government law that can be poorly understood. Whistleblowing can occur in either the private or public sector. When a servant of the government discloses government impropriety, it's considered public sector whistleblowing and that individual is governed by federal law. But when whistleblowing occurs in the public sector -- such as an employee disclosing illegal actions within the workplace -- it is a private sector issue. Such an employee must choose a whistleblower lawyer quickly to protect themselves.

1. All Whistleblowing Employees Are Protected

Government employees are guaranteed the right of free speech and have whistleblower protection. But for public employees, whistleblower protection is decided upon on a state-by-state basis. Some states, such as Texas, do not have whistleblowing protection for employees unless the employee is specifically whistleblowing that their company required them to break the law. If it is simply an administrative issue that is not illegal in criminal courts (but perhaps does constitute damage in civil courts), then the whistleblower may not have protection. And if the whistleblower themselves was not required to break the law, the situation may be the same.

2. Employers Can File a Whistleblower in an At-Will State

As mentioned above, whistleblower laws are decided upon on a state-by-state basis and are separate from at-will unemployment. An employee must look into their state laws. If their laws do protect them, then they can pursue an unlawful discharge case against the company, with the help of a lawyer. Of course, if the state is at-will and there are no whistleblower laws in place, the employee may not have any recourse.

3. Whistleblowers Need to Have Direct Evidence

A whistleblower can contact the appropriate parties with any evidence they have -- including suspicions. For the most part, the agency that the whistleblowing is reported to will usually attempt to keep the whistleblower's identity a secret to avoid any fear of reprisal. Those who are working with the IRS Whistleblower Program, for instance, will usually hire a lawyer to protect their identity. Many of these lawyers will work on a contingency basis, with the understanding that they will get a part of the proceeds regarded from the "tip." 

As you can see, government employees are really the only ones who are protected by whistleblower laws. Though whistleblowing can occur in the public sector, there may be ramifications that the employee needs to protect themselves from through the use of a whistleblower lawyer.

To learn more, contact a whistleblower law firm like Whistleblower Justice Network, Inc.