Whistleblowers put their jobs, reputations, and sometimes even physical well-being on the line to report fraud, criminal violations, or threats to the environment and public safety. To help reduce risks to whistleblowers and their families, the National Whistleblower Center offers ten things every whistleblower needs to know.
1. Learn about your rights before you blow the whistle.
There is no universal whistleblower law. Your rights depend on the procedures set forth in over 50 different federal laws and countless state laws. The level of protection depends on what you disclose, to whom, and how.
2. Don’t believe media stereotypes.
Contrary to claims by some in the media, whistleblowers are often highly respected by those charged with enforcing the law. Powerful whistleblower laws, such as the False Claims Act, Dodd-Frank Act, and the IRS whistleblower law protect and reward whistleblowers for helping law enforcement officials bring criminals and other wrongdoers to justice.
3. Just because you are doing what is “right” does not mean you will win your case.
Find the law that best protects you and make sure you follow it.
4. Consider remaining confidential.
Being a confidential or anonymous whistleblower can offer you the best possible protection. If your bosses do not know who the whistleblower is, they do not know who to fire. Some modern whistleblower laws have excellent procedures for protecting a whistleblower’s identity. Use them.
5. Qualify for a reward.
The most effective whistleblower laws both provide on-the-job protection against retaliation and permit whistleblowers to obtain a monetary reward if their information results in a successful enforcement action.
6. Pay attention to deadlines.
All whistleblower laws have statutes of limitation. If you miss that deadline, you may automatically lose your case. Reward laws give incentives for being the “first to file” a claim. Delay can be deadly to your rights.
7. Don’t break the law.
Many employees have lost their cases, or have been convicted ofcrimes, when they have illegally disclosed confidential information in violation of law. In most cases there are lawful ways to blow the whistle without losing your freedom or suffering penalties.
8. You don’t need to be a U.S. citizen.
The most effective whistleblower laws, including the False Claims Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the IRS tax law and the securities and commodity exchange acts, have transnational application. Citizens from foreign countries who have exposed fraud or bribery outside the United States have obtained millions in rewards.
9. Don’t rely on outdated information.
Over the past 30 years,the U.S. Congress has increasingly recognized the importance of whistleblowers and the contributions they have made in the detection of corporate crimes. New laws have extraordinary provisions protecting and rewarding whistleblowers. Every person considering blowing the whistle should avoid referring to outdated descriptions of the law and find out if they are covered by one of the powerful new laws.
10. You can win.
If they navigate the laws carefully, whistleblowers can become the most important source of information for prosecutors working to detect fraud and other crimes. Whistleblowers have triggered the most successful prosecutions for Medicare and Medicaid frauds, illegal banking, and fraud in government contracting. Taxpayers have recovered billions upon billions in fines and sanctions thanks to whistleblower disclosures. Since 1987, whistleblowers have obtained over $5 billion in rewards or bounty payments. Learn how to disclose crime the proper way and you can secure a reward while helping to defeat corruption!