Whistleblowers play an important role in their companies and in society as a whole. A whistleblower is an individual who reports criminal activity, noncompliance with regulations, health and safety violations, and unethical behavior on the part of their employer to parties that can put a stop to the wrongdoing, such as the company’s shareholders, industry regulators, or law enforcement.
Because a whistleblower’s job is so important to so many others, various laws are in place to protect them from retaliation. The most well-known of these is the Whistleblower Protection Act. Others include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act. When an employee correctly follows the reporting procedures outlined in these laws, he or she is protected from retaliation for acting as a whistleblower, even if his or her allegation is found to be incorrect.
Internal whistleblowing is the act of reporting wrongdoing to another party within one’s company or organization. For example, an employee at one branch of a chain of coffee shops who reports wage and hour violations at their store to the company’s corporate headquarters is an internal whistleblower.
Some companies have internal whistleblowing policies and procedures in place, such as an anonymous hotline for making reports. Employees must comply with these policies as stipulated by their employment contracts.
An external whistleblower, in contrast, is an individual who reports wrongdoing to sources outside his or her company, such as law enforcement or the media.
With any type of whistleblowing, the party who discloses the alleged wrongdoing must do so in good faith, meaning he or she must reasonably believe wrongdoing to be occurring and take reasonable steps to report it to the correct authority. When a whistleblower does not act in good faith, he or she is not protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act and thus not protected from demotion or termination following the report. To remain covered by the law, the employee must also choose not to participate in the wrongdoing or aid in the official investigation of his or her claim.
As our world and workplaces evolve, so do our security needs. In recent years, a new type of whistleblower, the cyber whistleblower, has arisen as an advocate for consumer and employee protection in online spheres. These whistleblowers report on security breaches in cloud storage systems, encryption deficiencies, hacks, and unsecure practices.
Work with an Experienced New Jersey Whistleblowing Attorney
If you feel something is not right at work, speak up about it. Your actions could prevent a major security breach, protect consumers from harm, or put a stop to ongoing violations that hurt employees. As a whistleblower, it is important that you work with an experienced employment lawyer who can protect your rights and advise you through the legal process. Contact The Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP today to set up your initial consultation with us to learn more about how we can protect you. We are one of New Jersey and New York’s premier employment law firms.