Protection for Whistleblowers

A whistleblower is an employee who reports the illicit activity or wrongdoing of an employer. The company could be in the private or public sector, including a government agency. Typically, whistleblowers report activity that involves fraud, abuse or endangerment to public health or safety.

Laws that Protect Whistleblowers

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a federal law, which protects federal government employees from retaliation against whistleblower reporting. The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) offers protection to federal employees who disclosed information regarding:

  • Law, rule or regulation violations
  • Gross mismanagement
  • Gross waste of funds
  • Authority abuse
  • A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement ACT (WPEA) is a federal law passed in 2012, and it established greater protections for federal whistleblowers.

Over the years, many whistleblower laws have emerged in various industries. For example the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a Whistleblower Protection Program that protects whistleblowers from retaliation against reporting safety and health violations across multiple industries. Industries include the airlines, construction, manufacturers of consumer products, healthcare, and transportation, to name a few. Some states have a state approved whistleblower plan under OSHA. New York is one of them.

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The Securities Industry Whistleblower Protection

Employees in the securities industry receive encouragement and protection under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection act, passed in 2010. Under this act, whistleblowers may receive up to 30 percent of the proceeds of an award or settlement for a security fraud case brought by the federal government.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act also protects employees working for publicly traded companies when they report fraud.

New York State Whistleblower Protection Law

New York Labor Law § 740 and § 741 protect employees who report substantial and specific danger to public health and safety or for actions that involve healthcare fraud. If an employer retaliates against the employee for whistleblower activity, the employee has a one-year statute of limitations to file against the employer for the retaliation. Employees may be able to recover back pay but they cannot sue for compensatory or punitive damages.

Before reporting the activity, the employee must inform the supervisor or employer and allow a reasonable period of time for correction.

Various other laws exist at the state and federal levels that apply to whistleblower activity, including the False Claims Act where individuals can report tax fraud to the federal government. This type of legal action is called qui tam.

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Consult with an Experienced Whistleblower Lawyer

If you have legal concerns about whistleblower cases or have suffered from retaliation as a result of your reporting actions, consult with an experienced attorney. At the Law Office of Peter A. Romero, we are glad to answer your questions and offer legal guidance. Call our firm at (631) 257-5588 or contact us online.

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