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Be aware of your rights before blowing the whistle, P.2

Many individuals who become whistleblowers first attempt to address violations of law through their employer’s internal complaint process, but when that doesn’t work, they do have the ability to report directly to the enforcing agency. In our previous post, we said that it is important for employees who become privy to regulatory violations on the job to understand their legal rights with respect to whistleblowing.

First of all, whistleblowers are rewarded for the risks they take. Whistleblowers can be entitled to awards between 10 and 30 percent of the penalties recovered, depending on the violations reported. Some agencies offer better protections and incentives to whistleblowers than others. 

As we noted last time, retaliation is a possibility for whistleblowers. Fortunately, whistleblower protections allow those who have been subjected to retaliation by an employer to recover back pay and future pay, as well as damages for emotional distress and attorney fees. Even in cases where the whistleblower may have been wrong about the information provided, retaliation can still result in penalties which the whistleblower may recover.

Legal protections ensure that employers are not allowed to stop a whistleblower from providing information about violations of law under an existing confidentiality agreement. Former employees also have the ability to disclose information concerning fraud when they would otherwise be prohibited by an agreement with the employer.

Three important points to keep in mind for those considering reporting violations: first, information must be provided voluntarily to the agency; second, the information must be original information concerning fraud; and third; the provision of information must also end with successful enforcement action involving financial penalties exceeding $1 million.

Those who become whistleblowers can benefit from the guidance of an experienced attorney, particularly if they end up suffering retaliation from the employer as a result of their whistleblowing. 

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