Blowing the Whistle on Misconduct and Facing the Consequences
Literally dozens of federal laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation for complaining to their employers, unions or government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful conditions on the workplace, violations of environment-protection laws, public safety hazards, and violations of federal laws regulating securities, banking and other financial services. In addition, Georgia's False Claims Act — updated in July 2012 — permits citizens to bring whistleblower lawsuits or make complaints on behalf of taxpayers and governments seeking to recover money obtained from the government through fraud. It also protects employees of the State and of Georgia's local governments from retaliation for efforts to prevent or reveal fraud.
No one makes the decision to blow the whistle on employer misconduct lightly. If you have witnessed employer misconduct and feel strongly that public whistle-blowing constitutes the only way to correct the problem, take steps to protect yourself and to secure evidence before drawing any attention to your concerns.
- Collect documentation of the misconduct before anyone knows of your suspicions. Once employers catch wind of potential whistle-blowing, important evidence has a way of disappearing.
- Consider whether you have a last, reasonable way to work within the system.
- Conduct whistle-blowing activities on your own time and with your own resources, not with your employer's.
- Once you are ready to begin, make sure your employer knows that you blew the whistle, and make sure that you have some record of that knowledge — e.g., a public statement with news media coverage, or a certified letter to your employer CC'ed to the pertinent government agency. That way, if your employer chooses to retaliate against you, you have a stronger case for whistleblower retaliation.
Although it may be the right thing to do, whistle-blowing creates risks for you, some of which may be mitigated if you speak to a knowledgeable employment lawyer before taking action.