With a major whistleblower story in the news recently, now is a good time to educate your managers and supervisors about whistleblower protection laws. There are more than two dozen federal laws that protect whistleblowers in various situations, including the Whistleblower Protection Act, most anti-discrimination laws, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the Dodd-Frank Act and others.
Have you become aware of fraud in a federal government contract or program? If you are considering blowing the whistle, you might qualify for a reward. In successful cases, whistleblowers who file under the False Claims Act are eligible for between 15% and 30% of any money recovered on behalf of the government.
A former Tesla employee has filed a federal lawsuit claiming, among other things, that he was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle. He reported incidents of theft, improper surveillance, improper contract awards and even drug trafficking, which he alleges took place at Tesla's Gigafactory in Nevada.
The Securities and Exchange Commission recently proposed a change to how it rewards private citizens who blow the whistle on securities violations under the Dodd-Frank Act. Under the proposal, the commission would have the discretion to increase some whistleblower awards beyond the 30-percent statutory maximum, up to $2 million. It would pay for this by discretionarily reducing some of the larger awards.
When we think about speech protections, we often think of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment only prohibits governmental actors from abridging freedom of speech, so it doesn't apply to private actors such as non-government employers. (The First Amendment does apply to government employers.)