The earliest known use of the word “whistleblower” was in a story published in a gazette in the 1880s referring to a police officer using a whistle to alert the public. By the 1960s, the term became a lot more popular when referring to people who bravely revealed or exposed illegal activity within a private, public, or government organization, including fraud and abuse of taxpayer funds.
It is a tough decision to report that your employer is violating the law, but if you have blown the whistle on your employer, then you probably have done so to stand up for yourself and others. In addition, you should be aware that there are state and federal laws that protect you from unlawful retaliation by your employer, such as:
- Terminating your job
- Demoting you
- Transferring you to another position or location
- Reducing your salary
- Denying you a promotion or pay raise
- Changes to your work schedule that are very different from the schedule you worked prior to filing your claim
Each state sets its own labor laws and puts in writing the specific whistleblower protections for residents. If your employer is pressuring you to participate in illegal activities, perform any of the actions listed above, or you would like to speak with an experienced whistleblower attorney, then you will need to contact one in your state.
Federal law protects whistleblowers from retaliation for disclosing information that they believe provides evidence of a violation of a law, regulation, abuse of authority, or other activity covered in the Constitution.
The False Claims Act was signed in 1863 after the Civil War and continues to protect whistleblowers today from retaliation in any form. This means that whistleblowers may not be discriminated against for filing a qui tam claim, harassed, demoted, threatened, or fired. If the whistleblower is retaliated against for filing the qui tam claim, then they can file a lawsuit against their employer to seek reinstatement (if they were terminated), back pay, and litigation costs or attorneys fees.
My employer retaliated against me after I attempted to expose them for a fraudulent payment that was received. How long do I have after the date of retaliation to take legal action?
The answer depends on what actions you took and whether they fall under legally protected activity. Generally, an employee has up to three years to take legal action against an employer who retaliated against them, such as firing them immediately after the employee filed the claim. Even if the whistleblower did not file a lawsuit but merely investigated alleged fraudulent activity, they may still be entitled to damages they suffered due to the reprisal.
Most whistleblower attorneys offer a free case evaluation, after which they assist you in filing a lawsuit or taking the requisite steps prior to filing a lawsuit. In addition, they may advise that you take additional steps before filing your claim with the court, such as internally reporting the incident, obtaining more documentation, or taking some other option.