Whistleblowers shed light on corruption and wrongdoing. They do so at the threat of losing their job, or worse.
Although there are numerous state and federal protections for whistleblowers, coping with job loss for reporting illegal activity can be both emotionally and financially challenging. It is illegal to fire an employee for reporting illegal employer misconduct and other acts of misconduct.
If you find yourself in such an unenviable situation, one of the most important aspects of asserting your legal rights is painfully obvious: you actually have to assert your rights. States vary but there is usually a fairly small window of time (90-120 days) to step up and speak out.
Employees that are fired for whistleblowing will essentially be filing a wrongful termination claim against their former employer and are able to recover lost wages, back pay and other damages.
The current issues surrounding Wikileaks have revealed the need for protections for whistleblowers. Companies are also on a heightened awareness of the importance in maintaining and developing internal policies to assist in the whistleblowing process. The hope is to ultimately foster an environment that allows for blowing that whistle and reporting without fear of retribution.
If that there is a backlash, whisteblowers have resources available to them. Perhaps the best step a whistleblower can do to protect his or her interests is to speak with an employment law attorney (see link below). Whether concerned over your job security or filing a lawsuit, an attorney is your greatest resource in these situations where conflicting employment interests surface at multiple levels. Since firing is not the only way a whistleblower can be illegally retaliated against, speaking with an attorney and using the many online resources available will help to further educate a whistleblower of their protections.