What Does It Mean to Be a Whistleblower?

What Does It Mean to Be a Whistleblower?

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What Does It Mean to Be a Whistleblower?

The term whistleblower has dominated news headlines across the country for years. But what exactly is a whistleblower, and what do they do? We'll discuss this and so much more in this article. 

What Is a Whistleblower?

A whistleblower is an individual or entity that reports fraud, abuse, corruption, or other dangers to public health and safety. In addition, this individual or entity exposes certain illegal activities in a private, public, or government organization. 

The whistleblower can choose to report the information either internally or externally. Internal reporting involves delivering the information to a supervisor, compliance manager, human resource manager, or any other relevant party. If they choose to report externally, they might present this information to the media, law enforcement, government, and any relevant party. 

Whistleblowers can also report privately via a third party. This option comes in handy when they want to hide their identity. Some companies have adopted this system to encourage whistleblowers to report organizational misconduct without the fear of being punished. 

Common Risks Whistleblowers Face

As expected, whistleblowers may not be everyone's favorite, particularly the party or individual responsible for the misconduct. Regardless of the environment, whistleblowing is a risky responsibility. Some examples of common risks whistleblowers face, especially in the workplace, include:

  • termination;
  • blacklisting;
  • cutting hours;
  • suspension;
  • demotion;
  • wage garnishment; and
  • discrimination. 

However, it's important to note that the law prohibits the other parties from retaliating against whistleblowers. For example, in California, the law prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers who report attempts to defraud the state government. Such whistleblowers may receive up to half of the proceeds recovered as a reward. 

Examples of Whistleblowing in the Workplace

Some of the most common whistleblower cases in the workplace include: 

Sexual Harassment

The law protects workers from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, despite knowing this, cases of sexual harassment in the workplace are still on the rise. According to a 2018 survey, at least 59% of women have received unwanted sexual advances while at work. The study also revealed that 27% of men were also sexually assaulted in the workplace. 

These shocking numbers prove that sexual harassment is still a major issue of concern in the workplace. As a result, it's becoming increasingly important to hold the offenders responsible for their actions. 

Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination is yet another common characteristic of a toxic workplace. Employment law prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees based on their race. 

Examples of racial discrimination incidents in the workplace include:

  • a company refuses to hire drivers from a particular race because of the stereotype that certain races are bad drivers; 
  • an employer refuses to hire a qualified worker from a particular race because they 'wouldn't fit the company's profile';
  • an employer orders a Muslim employee to stop wearing a particular religious outfit because the company risks losing customers; or
  • an employer refuses to hire a qualified worker because the latter's spouse doesn't fit a particular racial profile. 


Cases of workplace-related fraud occur in the United States every day. Such cases occur in almost every field in a company or organization. Some of the most common examples of workplace-related fraud include: 

  • price fixing;
  • overbilling;
  • not revealing safety concerns and violations;
  • false certifications either by educational institutions or certifying agencies;
  • unrecorded sick leave or vacation;
  • stealing cash, equipment, supplies, inventory, or anything in between;
  • using corporate credit cards for unauthorized purchases;
  • fake receipts;
  • ghost employees;
  • false overtime; and
  • billing for services not performed. 


Corruption is an umbrella term for a wide range of unlawful conduct. Some common cases of corruption at the workplace include:

  • bribery;
  • fraud;
  • embezzlement;
  • kickbacks; and
  • favoritism.
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  • How Does the Law Protect Whistleblowers?

    According to employment laws enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an employer can't retaliate against a whistleblower for reporting violations. OSHA's employment laws specifically prohibit employers from taking adverse actions against whistleblowers. 

    Adverse action refers to any action that would dissuade an employee from raising concerns about a potential violation or engaging in any other related protected activity. As per OSHA, a protected activity is a right accorded to a whistleblower by the OSH Act. For instance, reporting issues of concern to your employer, the state or federal agencies is considered a protected activity. 

    Despite being aware of these laws, some may still retaliate through other means. For example, excluding a whistleblower from important meetings could be a sign of retaliation, especially if the employee was previously part of such meetings. 

  • What to Do if an Employer Retaliates Against You for a Whistleblowing

    If you believe that your employer is retaliating against you for reporting certain violations in the workplace, it's important that you seek legal action against them. Employer retaliation could affect your performance at work and even put your job at risk. 

    You shouldn't pay for someone else's negligence. If anything, they should be held responsible for their negligence and retaliating against you. 

    Remember the Statute of Limitations

    The process of filing a whistleblower complaint is time-sensitive. For this reason, don't assume that you have all the time in the world to file a complaint against the other party. 

    OSHA has more than 20 whistleblower statutes, each with varying deadlines for filing. For example, suppose you raise the alarm over violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act or Solid Waste Disposal Act. In that case, you have up to 30 days (from the time the adverse action was communicated to you) to file a complaint. 

    For violations of the International Safe Container Act, you have up to 60 days to file a complaint. If your employer violated the Anti-Money Laundering Act and retaliated against you for reporting them, you have up to 90 days to file the complaint. 

    File a Complaint

    There are different ways to file complaints with OSHA if your employer retaliates against you for reporting them. The most common options include:

    • Filing online through the OSHA Online Whistleblower Complaint Form
    • By submitting your Online Whistleblower Complaint Form to your OSHA Regional or Area Office via Fax, Mail, or Email
    • Through calling your local OSHA Regional or Area Office to speak with an OSHA staff member 
    • In-person by visiting your local OSHA Regional or Area Office to speak with an OSHA staff member
    • By consulting an employment and labor attorney (highly recommended)
  • What Do I Need to File a Complaint Against My Employer for Retaliation?

    Before filing a complaint against your employer, you'll need the following information:. 

    • Documentation regarding the complaint filed against your employer, including the violations
    • Evidence such as emails, text messages, meeting notes, work orders, etc
    • Evidence of unlawful termination
    • Copies of any disciplinary against taken against you by your employer
    • Witness information, such as names, telephone numbers, and a summary of what each witness may know about your employer's action against you
    • Names, roles, and contact information of the officials who decided to terminate you
    • Copies of your last five pay stubs
    • Evidence of the actions that lead to your employer's retaliation, such as complaints or lawsuits
  • Benefits of Hiring an Employment and Labor Lawyer

    When an employer retaliates against you, you may not know where to start with filing your complaint. The truth is, there's a possibility that your case may be thrown out if it doesn't meet certain requirements. This is where an employment and labor lawyer comes in to help. 

    Interpreting the Law

    To increase your chances of getting a fair ruling, it's your responsibility to prove the other party's wrongdoing. However, that's not always easy. An employment lawyer can help you understand the law, including your rights as a worker. This makes it easier to determine whether you have a case against the other party and the best way to pursue it. 

    Gathering Important Evidence

    Your attorney can help gather important evidence regarding your case. If you already have evidence, the attorney will review everything and decide what counts and what doesn't. This is because they understand employment laws and want to ensure you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the other party retaliated against you for whistleblowing.

    Filing and Opposing Motions

    Don't expect your employer to take responsibility for their actions without putting up a fight. A rogue employer might even accuse you of misconduct in an attempt to justify their actions. But when you have an experienced employment attorney by your side, you can rest assured that someone who cares for you is already fighting for you. 

    Filing Summary Judgments

    When there's no reason to dispute some aspects of a claim, especially due to overwhelming evidence, an attorney can file a summary judgment. This judgment helps avoid unnecessary trials and simplifies the trial process.  

    A judge can make a summary judgment based on available statements and evidence. In that case, you'll need an experienced employment attorney who can prepare a solid case against the other party, eliminating the possibility of going to trial. While a summary judgment is not a guarantee, it is one of the many legal avenues such an attorney can help you pursue against the other party. 

  • What's the Average Retaliation Settlement?

    The average settlement for retaliation ranges from $10,000 to $500,000. However, the amount depends on the specifics of the case. For example, your salary could determine the settlement amount. Other factors that could influence the settlement include:

    • strength of evidence;
    • specific actions of your employer; and
    • impact of your employer's actions.

    In 2021, Morgan & Morgan helped a client recover $500,000 as retaliation settlement when her employer retaliated against her for reporting a sexual harassment incident. A year earlier, another client had recovered over $200,000 as settlement. This is a perfect example of how the settlement amount varies from case to case. 

  • What Are the Legal Consequences of Employee Retaliation?

    If you win your retaliation claim, the court might order the other party to compensate you for lost wages, attorney fees, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, pain and suffering, among others. The court can also order the losing party to set up measures in the workplace to prevent such incidents from reoccurring in the future. These measures could include retraining workers, updating company policies, etc. 

  • When Does the Statute of Limitations for Whistleblower Complaints Begin to Count?

    The countdown for filing such complaints begins when the employee learns about the adverse action. For example, when your employer informs you about your demotion, the clock begins to count that very moment.

  • Morgan & Morgan Employment Attorneys Are Here to Help 

    Your workplace should be a safe place. You should be able to fulfill your duties without intimidation or fear of retaliation. If your employer retaliates against you for whistleblowing, talk to a Morgan & Morgan employment attorney right away. Our law firm handles more employment-related lawsuits than any other personal injury law firm in the country.

    You can count on our lawyer's experience and dedication to pursue your case against the other party. The employer's size doesn't matter - we have taken down some of the biggest bullies in the country. As the largest personal injury law firm in the US, we have more than enough resources to fight for your rights in and out of court. 

    If your employer thinks they can retaliate against you because you don't have anyone fighting for you, it's time to prove them wrong. Call us today at 877-309-0360 or fill out our free consultation form, and one of our representatives will get in touch with you as soon as possible. 

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