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What is Whistleblowing?

The relationship between employers and their employees is regulated and governed by hundreds or even thousands of laws that dictate everything from expectations to requirements to proper conduct by both sides. Employers are the ones who have the responsibility to ensure everything is adhered to properly, however employees can also take responsibility for themselves and protect their rights by raising attention when employers or co-workers are partaking in wrongdoing. The process of doing so is known as “whistleblowing.”

More specifically, whistleblowing is the act of bringing attention to a perceived wrongdoing, unethical activity, or mistreatment by a co-worker, boss, or other party in a public, private, or third-sector organization. Those who report these activities to authority figures, be it their supervisor, a higher-up in the company, their human resources department (internal whistleblowing), or even to the Department of Labor itself or to the media (external whistleblowing) are known as “whistleblowers.”

Legal Protections

Whistleblowers often expose all sorts of embarrassing and reputational damage, which often makes them the target of retribution from those who are negatively impacted by their actions. Thus, whistleblowers are granted legal protections to encourage people to come forward.

Federal employees are protected by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which essentially states that government or public workers can’t be discriminated against, fired, demoted, or otherwise negatively treated as retribution for coming forward as a whistleblower.

There are several other protections on the books for private company whistleblowers as well. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 extended protections from government employees to all private-sector workers as well, within a few certain limits. In the wake of the Enron scandal in 2002, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to offer legal retribution options for employees who had been unjustly treated in the wake of making a whistleblower claim. This protection was further expanded in 2014 when the Supreme Court ruled that the protection applies to both privately and publically-owned companies.

There are many other protections as well on both the federal and state level. Military personnel are also protected from retribution if they choose to expose wrongdoings in the armed services.

Have you been mistreated, discriminated against, or otherwise negatively impacted after alerting authorities to unlawful behavior or practices within your place of employment? Learn more about your rights from an Atlanta employment attorney! Call Buckley Beal, LLP today at (404) 471-3725 to request a case evaluation.

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