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Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws are put in place to protect employees from retaliation by their employers for reporting to the proper authorities anything that violates state or federal law. Whistleblower laws also legislate to stop employers retaliating against employees who will not (1) take part in activities that these laws define as unlawful, or (2) take part in any legal proceedings under the laws.

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This is to protect employees against intimidation through harassment or threats of discharge from employment. Those who are subjected to such treatment can generally sue for damages under the whistleblower laws.

"Qui tam" is a mechanism contained within the False Claims Act that allows anyone who knows of fraud against the government to sue on the government's behalf, to recover whatever has been fraudulently obtained. A citizen who does this is known as a relator and they can be awarded a percentage of the value of the recovered funds, usually from 15 to 25 per cent. This gives a strong incentive to citizens to help the government in fighting fraud against taxpayers.

The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, also known as SOX, is a law that protects corporate whistleblowers and it was brought in following some of the big corporate scandals, such as those at Enron and WorldCom. It helps employees to report any violations of Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, or breaking of laws in relation to defrauding shareholders.

The law says that an employee may not be discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other way discriminated against. If this occurs, then the employee is entitled to remedies, including full reinstatement, back pay with interest and compensation for damages.

Whistleblower laws are included in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which safeguards against retaliation by employers or others for complaining about unsafe working conditions or practices. This and other similar laws also apply to reporting of safety hazards in public places.

Several laws relating to public environmental health include, for obvious reasons, protection for whistleblowers. These began in 1972 with the Water Pollution Control Act, which also came to be known as the Clean Water Act. The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 and the Solid Waste Disposal Act, 1976 also included provision for the protection of informants. Several other laws, covering toxic substances, clean air, the protection of truck drivers, and nuclear whistleblowers, have been enacted over recent years.

Complaints about, and the investigation of retaliation are the responsibility of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)of the United States Department of Labor, in particular, the Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program.

Where things are not so clear cut and consistent in this area is the time that a complainant has to report any instances of retaliation. This means that the person who feels victimized needs to be aware of the time limits for their particular situation. Some authorities require reporting action to be taken in as little as ten days, as is the case with Arizona State employees, whereas, some private sector employees have up to three hundred days to register their complaint.

The need for whistleblower laws is undeniable and it was recognized in the U. S. as far back as the Civil War, when employees were encouraged to blow the whistle on fraudulent suppliers to the military, who, for example were known to substitute sawdust for gunpowder in supplies to the Union army. Nowadays, even military personnel have the protection of whistleblower laws if they see illegal activities taking place.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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