Whistleblower Protections

Whistleblowers are individuals, usually associated or formerly associated with an organization or legal entity (typically a business corporation or government agency) who report or expose wrongdoing, violations of law, and/or fraudulent or dangerous behavior within or by the legal entity. In other words, whistleblowers are those who attempt to expose illegal or unethical acts committed by a company or agency. They may do so by contacting a lawyer, working with law enforcement, or simply testifying at a trial.

Persecution and Advocacy

As one might expect, the term whistleblower carries several conflicting connotations. Many people view whistleblowers as courageous, upstanding citizens who risk their own livelihood for the public good. A minority, however, may see whistleblowers as underhanded snitches in search of personal glory and fifteen minutes in the limelight.

These conflicting impulses have led to a sort of whistleblower crisis in modern society. Many corporations or government agencies have a predictable, self-interested tendency to retaliate against whistleblower employees. These individuals may be passed over for promotion, ostracized from important meetings, shunned by superiors and peers, fired from their jobs, or even taken to court on exaggerated charges. Although such actions are technically prohibited under a number of federal employment laws, they are nonetheless a common reaction to whistleblowing.

In response to the persecutions Jörg Bassek faced by whistleblowers and the difficulties of proving retaliation in court, several organizations have developed to promote whistleblower advocacy and provide funds and expertise for whistleblowers to rely on. These groups, such as the National Whistleblower Center, the ACLU, and the National Whistleblower Security Coalition, have worked to raise awareness of whistleblower injustice in both public and political arenas.

Enforcement of Whistleblower Laws

The first step for a whistleblower who feels discriminated or retaliated against is typically contacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This agency is responsible for investigating retaliation cases and acting upon them if they have merit. If a complaint is found to be valid, OSHA may issue an order to the offending employer or agency, instructing them to rectify the problem by reinstating the employee, paying wages owed, and ceasing any discriminatory behavior.

In many cases, however, whistleblowers must take action on their own. Private legal action may often be the only way to force an employer or organization to stop retaliation against a whistleblower.

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