Federal and state law protect whistleblowers in some, but not all, situations. It is difficult to make general statements about these kinds of claims, since they arise out of a number of different statutes, as well as from the common law.
It is important to keep in mind that some of these claims have very short statutes of limitations. If you believe that your employment has been or will be terminated because you are a whistleblower, you should contact a lawyer immediately.
Three different categories of whistleblower claims are:
- Financial whistleblower claims. This could involve blowing the whistle about false claims against the government (False Claims Act) and fraudulent conduct by publicly traded corporations (Dodd-Frank Act), among other types of protected conduct.
- Environmental whistleblower claims. This can involve reporting what the plaintiff believes in good faith to constitute violations of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, or other environment statutes.
- Employment whistleblower claims. This could involve complaints of unsafe working conditions (Occupational Safety and Health Act), of unsafe working conditions for truck drivers (Surface Transportation Assistance Act, and other employee-protection statutes.
This is not an exhaustive list. You should consult with an attorney about whether your whistleblowing activity is protected by federal or state law.
In addition, some whistleblowing activity is covered by common law – that is, judge-made law – on wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Whistleblowing activity sometimes is protected by anti-discrimination statutes, such as when an employee opposes what s/he reasonably and in good faith believes to constitute employment discrimination.
Whistleblowing can be either internal or external. Protected external activity generally includes complaints to law enforcement authorities and to legislators. Protected internal activity includes complaints to company officials about allegedly unlawful activity by that company.