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Blowing The Whistle on Misconduct — And Facing The Consequences

Employees who witness wrongdoing by a business, corporation or its officers may become whistleblowers. Some whistleblowers have been asked by their bosses to do something that they believe is illegal or unethical. Many individuals who witness such illegal actions are worried that other individual will be hurt or lose money if they do not report wrongdoing.

However, individuals who are considering becoming whistleblowers may be worried about being fired or disciplined by their employers. Despite being protected by a variety of state and federal laws, some whistleblowers do face retaliation on the part of their employers. Such employees can generally file suits under whistleblower laws and may be able to collect damages connected to lost wages or the injury of their professional reputation. There are three significant bodies of legislation that protect whistleblowers.

The Occupational Safety and Healthy Act, known as OSHA, is designed to protect employees from unsafe conditions in the workplace. Whistleblowers who inform the appropriate body of OSHA violations are protected from retaliation by employers.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is a set of securities laws that were put in place following the Enron crisis. These acts protect whistleblowers who want to report securities fraud or who cooperate with a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation.

Many whistleblowers are protected by the False Claims Act, which is designed to protect employees whose employers work with the federal government. Employees who report that their employer is attempting to defraud or otherwise cheat the federal government are protected by this act, also known as the Qui Tam Law. Under the False Claims Act, a whistleblower is entitled to a portion of the damages that the federal government recovers as the result of a fraud investigation. In general, whistleblowers receive between 15 and 25 percent of recovered damages.

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