With all of the news concerning whistleblower complaints by federal employees regarding certain actions originating in the oval office, I thought that it is a good time to review the whistleblower protections that apply in the general employment setting (i.e. non-federal employment).
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 covers federal government employees who report the possible existence of an activity constituting a violation of law, rules, or regulations, or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.
Some federal laws also protect non-federal employees; examples are the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
In a previous post, it was explained that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers by publicly held as well as nonpublic and nonprofit businesses and organizations.
Employees in general (i.e. employees of private and public employers) are protected in most states by laws that bar discrimination or retaliation against whistleblowers. In Ohio it is the Ohio Whistleblower Protection Act (“WPA”).
The whistleblower laws, whether federal or state, have several things in common:
- The anonymity of the whistleblower is to be protected to the maximum extent possible;
- his or her complaint is to be investigated and corrective action taken if needed (assuming that the complaint it is made in good-faith);
- the whistleblower is not to be subjected to retaliation by the employer or others in response to their claim (i.e. loss of job, demotion, harassment, etc.).
- the whistleblower must have a good-faith or reasonable belief that the employer or its employees are in some way violating existing law(s).