Whistleblower Protection - What Every Whistleblower Should Know

Whistleblowers can face serious consequences, but knowing your rights as a whistleblower can make speaking up sooner a bit easier.

Posted by Lindsay Khan in Ethics & Compliance, Whistleblower on February 5th, 2010

Think of the gutsy decision made by whistleblower Coleen Rowley- she was the one who voiced her concerns to the Director of the FBI regarding the FBI’s mishandling of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the terrorist activity that they were aware of prior to the attacks. It takes a lot of courage to be a whistleblower. In the news, we hear about high profile scandals and wonder why no one spoke up sooner.

Due to the fact that the majority of those taking on the role of whistleblower get fired for doing so, it becomes very clear why it took so long.

In a statement made by the National Whistleblowers Centre (NWC), whistleblowers are the single most important corporate resource for detecting and preventing fraud. Whistleblowers can face serious consequences, but knowing your rights as a whistleblower can make speaking up sooner a bit easier.

What Makes the Whistle Blow?

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Fraud and criminal practices are the most frequently reported cases. Other areas that receive whistleblower attention are:

  • Health and safety issues
  • Accounting and bank fraud
  • Environmental issues
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Medical malpractices

Rights of Whistleblowers:

In order to have your rights as a whistleblower protected, you must report the actions to a government agency or someone outside of the company- whistleblower protections do not apply for cases made internally. The legal issues surrounding whistleblowing are very complex. Before taking any action as a whistleblower, it is important that you seek legal advice. The industry you work in and the type of malpractice you plan to report play a role in determining which laws and acts you will be covered by. The purpose behind whistleblower protection laws are to allow employees to stop, report, or testify about employer actions that are illegal, unhealthy, or violate specific public policies.

Here are some of the acts that have whistleblower protections built into them:

The False Claims Act allows a private individual or “whistleblower”, with knowledge of past or present fraud on the federal government, to sue on behalf of the government to recover civil penalties and triple damages. If the suit is successful, it not only stops the dishonest conduct, but also deters similar conduct by others and may result in the receipt of a substantial share of the government’s ultimate recovery – as much as 30% of the total.

The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) provides statutory protections for federal employees who engage in “whistleblowing,” making a disclosure evidencing illegal or improper government activities.

Sarbanes- Oxley Section 806 also has provisions to protect whistleblowers in the case of reporting financial and accounting malpractices.

There are also many branches of the US Department of Labour that protect whistleblowers within the United States. Click here to view the different departments and your rights.

Forms of Retaliation:

Even though retaliating against a whistleblower in the workplace is illegal, the unfortunate reality is, it usually happens.

Common forms of retaliation include:

  • Firing
  • Demotion
  • Suspension
  • Job reassignment
  • Decrease in work hours
  • Change in work description
  • Denial of future promotions
  • Relocation
  • Harassment, etc.

In our posts about the Ethics Bubble, and Ethics During a Recession we highlighted this graph from the recent Ethics Reseource Centre National Business Ethics Survey.



Marketing Coordinator

Lindsay Khan is the marketing manager for i-Sight Software. With an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree in marketing from the University of Ottawa, she brings business acumen to the subjects she covers for the company blog and website. Lindsay compiles monthly newsletters, writes and promotes downloadable guides and press releases, promotes webinars and manages our online communities.

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