Whistleblowers are employees who report inappropriate activity they experience or witness in their workplace, or such activity their employers commit. Once you witness illegal behavior, you have a choice to make about whether to speak up.
Understandably, many people who could be whistleblowers are afraid to speak up about what they have witnessed because they fear the potential consequences they may face as a result. There are many forms of employer retaliation, both subtle and overt, an employee may experience after becoming a whistleblower. If you are in a situation you think may qualify, you should know your rights as a potential whistleblower.
The law protects whistleblowers
One of the first and most important things you should know when considering whether to speak up about something illegal you witnessed taking place at your workplace is the law protects whistleblowers. The federal government has its own Whistleblower Protection Program, and there are 22 federal laws that protect whistleblowers. Protections are not just for federal or government employees, so you should not avoid speaking up just because you think the law does not shield you.
There are risks to employees
Unfortunately, it is true that employers may choose to retaliate against employees who speak up about inappropriate or illegal workplace practices or behavior. However, there are federal anti-retaliation provisions that aim to protect employees who speak up.
There are various forms of employer retaliation, which can include things such as wrongful termination, performance assessments with unjustified negative reviews, demotions or unwanted transfers, or getting blocked in terms of advancement.
If you experience retaliation as a result of speaking up about what you have witnessed as a whistleblower, you should seek legal recourse to protect yourself. The law ensures you protections to encourage you to expose unlawful behavior on the part of your employer. That being the case, you should not hesitate to take advantage of these protections so you can expose inappropriate or illegal acts. In so doing, you are likely protecting others and helping keep people safe or free from the unlawful behavior you witnessed.