Whistleblowers play a tremendously important role in white-collar crime. Understand more about what a whistleblower is, and if they’re protected.
Whistleblowers play an incredibly important role in the fight against white-collar crime. Because corporate crimes can be difficult to detect initially, whistleblowers help corporations protect their assets and spark investigations into possible illegal misconduct. The issue that leaves many people confused centers around what happens to whistleblowers. The fact is, whistleblowers who discover and report illegal activity can potentially face retaliation.
This then raises the question of what a whistleblower actually is, and what – if any – protections are legally granted to them.
What Is a Whistleblower?
We need to take a trip back into history when answering the question of “what is a whistleblower?”. The term came into being during Lincoln’s presidency, in hopes of encouraging private citizens to report frauds against the government. Today, we hear the term “whistleblower” quite often in the news, generally in relation to a white-collar crime.
A whistleblower is essentially someone who learns of a crime or unethical behavior and reports it. If there is a misconception that surrounds the whistleblower, it’s whether they were also involved in the unethical behavior. In contrast to this misconception, a whistleblower is defined as someone who had no involvement in the illegal activity.
Whistleblowers play a crucial role in helping corporations, investigators, and prosecutors uncover and pursue criminal justice against white-collar criminals. One could estimate that the number of white-collar prosecutions would be severely diminished without the help of whistleblowers providing knowledge of unethical or illegal activities. It’s possible that whistleblowers save corporations and the government billions of dollars each year.
While the role of whistleblowers is central to fighting white-collar crimes, the person who fills that role is putting themselves in a situation where they could easily become the target of retaliation. Considering the importance of whistleblowers in federal criminal cases, are there any protections offered to them?
Fortunately, there are several laws and acts that provide whistleblower protection under both federal and state law. For instance, in the state of Texas, whistleblowers are protected against retaliation by law that states employers “Cannot suspend, terminate or take other adverse personnel action if an employee reports a violation of law by an employer or another employee”. If an employer or supervisor takes adverse action against a whistleblower, they face financial penalties up to $15,000. (1)
Additionally, there are federal protections for whistleblowers. These protections are provided under the False Claims Act (FCA), which states that employers are prohibited by federal law from making any act of retaliation against an employee who reports unethical or illegal activity. Under the FCA, acts of retaliation may include termination, demotion, suspension or duties, or any other action that might be seen as being discriminatory.
The FCA also establishes what a whistleblower must show in order to claim they were retaliated against as a result of their disclosures. A whistleblower must establish the following:
- That the employer or supervisor was aware of the whistleblowing activities at the time of retaliation
- That the employer or supervisor acted in such a manner because of these actions
Any whistleblower who has lost their job, been demoted, or otherwise discriminated against in the workplace is entitled to full reinstatement of their position, pay, seniority level, and/or responsibilities within the company. A whistleblower who has been able to establish they were the victim of discriminatory action may also be entitled to financial reimbursement of two times the total about of back payment owed plus interest, as well as additional compensation for damages such as court costs and other fees associated with the lawsuit.
The False Claims Act is designed to protect employees who become whistleblowers against possible repercussions. As a corporation, it’s also important that you understand your rights in the event a whistleblower presents accusations against you, your company or employees.
Should You Contact a White-Collar Defense Attorney In Dallas?
Whistleblowers have been the initial force behind many white-collar crime prosecutions. In most cases, these people play an important role in bringing light to illegal activity. However, there are also times when they may bring about damage caused by untruthful accusations. If you’ve found yourself involved in a criminal corporate investigation, it’s important that you contact a white-collar defense attorney in Dallas.
Reaching out to experienced legal counsel, sooner rather than later, can help ensure that you’re in the best position to fight back against any of the allegations against you. Reach out today to an experienced criminal defense attorney in Dallas that you trust. Contact the criminal defense team at the Dallas Law Office of Broden & Mickelsen today.
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Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case.