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Are you a whistleblower?

whistleOn July 30, 2014 the United States Senate passed a resolution declaring that day "National Whistleblowers Appreciation Day", the second year that it did so. The commendation of whistleblowers - those who report to government when there are questionably illegal practices in the workplace - was first done by the Congress in 1778. Bringing illegal activity to light in a very real sense depends upon whistleblowers.

Have you ever worked for an employer and you believed illegal activity was going on? Perhaps you observed a violation of a government regulation, misappropriation of funds from some government agency, or a cover-up of some kind. Or more seriously, perhaps you witnessed conduct that would threaten the safety of fellow workers or the public.

Both state law and Federal law (depending upon your employee status) protect employees who blow the whistle by giving these employees some redress if the employer retaliates against the employee for the whistleblowing (through termination or some other adverse action). The law varies depending upon who you reported the illegal activity to, and what exactly the employer did in response. In certain kinds of cases, there may also be compensation owed to the employee for reporting fraud or cheating with government money.

This blog post will explain in brief some of the questions you need to ask if you believe you have witnessed illegal activity by your employer:
  1. Did you see something that was actually illegal, or was it a only violation of company policy or professional standards but does not implicate a direct threat to the public good? If it was a violation of company policy only, it is unlikely to fit within any Whistleblower rubric.
  2. Was the illegal activity at issue done by someone in management; or was it done by non-management employees but with the tacit approval or acceptance by management? If either of these was true, it is worth exploring further and worth reporting about.
  3. Did you actually make a written report of the illegal activity to management? Did you report it to the police or some other regulatory agency that you believed is a responsible authority? It is not enough to grumble or complain to your co-workers or even to your manager about the activity. To qualify as a Whistleblower, the employee must refuse to engage in the activity, and must notify someone with the authority to take action against the employer for the illegal activity.
  4. Do you want to be a Whistleblower? In case this is not understood, actually making a report, i.e., blowing the whistle, takes courage because you are risking that you will be disciplined or terminated by the employer for doing so. But to be a Whistleblower is to take this risk; it is not sufficient to simply moan and complain, or to be afraid of termination and use that as a reason to stay quiet.

So every person must of course evaluate their position and make the conscious decision to be a Whistleblower.

Before doing so, it is a good idea to consult an attorney who is experienced in this area in order to evaluate your options and advise you of your rights.

The Law Office of Denise DeBelle is proud to represent whistleblowers. We stand ready to advise you, just call our office at 773-728-0136.


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