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An Introduction to Whistleblower Law

Whistleblower law is complex and comes in many forms. If you have evidence of fraud or wrongdoing that you believe should be reported, it’s important to act fast—but first make sure you understand the basics of whistleblower law and the protections available to you.

 

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing occurs when a person raises concerns about illegal activity, negligence, or wrongdoing within a company, organization, or government agency. It typically involves crime, miscarriage of justice, health and safety risks, or environmental hazards. In order for whistleblowing to be protected by law, it must be a genuine concern, and it must be backed by evidence.

What types of concerns do whistleblowers report?

The most frequent types of whistleblower cases involve healthcare fraud, financial fraud, defense contractor fraud, government grant fraud, tax fraud, securities fraud, public health and safety concerns, and violations of environmental laws and regulations

Who can be a whistleblower?

Whistleblowers can be employees of a company, former employees, vendors, customers, private citizens, or even non-US citizens in some cases.  Anyone who has evidence that will help the government uncover and stop the fraud may qualify as a whistleblower.  That is the key:  Evidence that will help uncover and stop the fraud.

What laws govern whistleblowing?

The federal False Claims Act provides rewards for whistleblowers who report fraud, waste and abuse in government programs.  Other laws provide whistleblower rewards for tax fraud and securities fraud.  Several other types of employees and activities are protected under different federal whistleblower protection acts and regulations, which are administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Most states also have their own individual whistleblower laws for state, public, and private employees. The specific laws governing your case will depend on your state and your line of work.

When is a whistleblower protected from retaliation?

Whistleblower laws provide protections against retaliation, but only if you qualify as a whistleblower.  That often means complying with all the procedural requirements and deadlines for filing a whistleblower claim, although in some instances you may be protected merely for reporting the illegal activity inside your own company.  To understand when you are protected by whistleblower laws, you have to pay close attention to your circumstances. For instance, were you fired shortly after reporting wrongdoing? Did you receive a negative response when you tried to speak to someone at your workplace before going outside? Have other employees been fired for whistleblowing? Concrete evidence, like dated memos and signed statements from other former employees, will strengthen your case.

Are there rewards involved?

Individuals may be able to earn financial rewards for whistleblowing, depending on the nature of their claims. For example, if you provide the IRS with evidence that helps them recover unpaid taxes and discover violations of their laws, you may be entitled to a significant award based on a percentage of the amount they recover.

How long should you wait to act?

The faster you act, the more chance you’ll have at raising a successful case. Whistleblower law suffers from a relatively short statute of limitations, meaning you only have a small window of time to make your allegations stick. The statute of limitations for your case may vary, so you should consult us as soon as possible.

 

To maximize your chances at receiving a reward for your efforts, you should work with a seasoned whistleblower lawyer. The Howley Law Firm has been handling cases like yours for decades, and we know exactly what to expect from the strict whistleblowing process. Give us a call to discuss your case in a confidential consultation. We will go above and beyond to defend your rights.