When employees report the illegal or fraudulent activities of their employers, they are protected by law from being retaliated against at work. This generally means that the employee, the whistle-blower, cannot be fired or subjected to a discriminatory or hostile work environment due to the complaint. However, whistle-blowers are often retaliated against and in these cases they can seek legal recourse, including compensation for their losses as well as job reinstatement.
Historically, employees of the federal government have not had the same whistle-blower protections as employees in the private sector. On Tuesday in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama signed a bill that will give greater protections to federal whistle-blowers.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act closes several loopholes that have been created by court rulings and affords more protection to government employees who report abuse, fraud or waste in government.
The new whistle-blower law protects workers even if they are not the first party to report misconduct, which was not previously the case. It also makes it easier to punish supervisors and agencies that retaliate against whistle-blowers and provides an ombudsman for many government agencies who will educate federal employees about their rights.
Additionally, some workers who were not previously protected by whistle-blower laws, such as those with the Transportation Security Administration, will now be covered for the first time. The law also clarifies the right of whistle-blowers to communicate with Congress.
The whistle-blower bill has been in the making for 13 years, but passed easily in Congress earlier this fall.
Reporting fraud or other types of illegal conduct of an employer is a significant employment right and it is important that this right is protected for those in various forms of employment.
Source: Associated Press, "Whistle-Blower Bill For U.S. Workers Signed by Obama," Larry Margasak, Nov. 27, 2012
- More information about whistle-blower protection is available on our Maryland law firm's Retaliatory Termination page.