Whistleblowers: The Pros and Cons of Whistleblowing

A whistleblower is someone who files charges against an employer or coworker for engaging in illegal or unethical business practices. It is typically an employee of the workplace that discovers a plot or scheme, and comes forward to report the employer to authorities. Blowing the whistle on an employer puts an employee at risk of losing his or her job, either through wrongful termination or quitting to escape an uncomfortable situation. Yet many perks and benefits can also arise from whistleblowing in California.

Pros of Whistleblowing

As an employee who discovers signs of unlawful activities at work, it is your ethical duty to come forward with what you know. You do not owe your employer the duty to keep his or her secrets – especially if your employer is breaking the law through insider trading or other illegal acts. Coming forward can clear your conscience and separate you from the crimes of your employer or coworkers. This can help you stay out of legal trouble in the future, if someone else uncovers your employer’s illicit activity.

Whistleblowing is a protected action under federal and state laws. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Whistleblower Protection Program has over 20 statutes that protect employees who report workplace violations. It protects employees from retaliation, discrimination, and harassment for exercising their right to blow the whistle. If workers do face retaliation, they can file complaints and potentially receive compensation for their troubles and related losses.

The federal False Claims Act also includes whistleblower protections that encourage workers to come forward against companies defrauding or attempting to defraud the government. California has its own whistleblower protections as well, in California Labor Code Section 1102.5. This law states that if an employee faces retaliation for whistleblowing, the employer must reinstate the employee’s job position, as well as pay lost wages and work benefits. You do not need to worry about financial losses or retaliation as a whistleblower. Several laws offer protection.

Another potential pro of blowing the whistle is receiving compensation from the government as a thank you. The False Claims Act entitles certain whistleblowers to financial rewards for their assistance in stopping a fraudulent employer. Whistleblowers can receive a percentage of the amount of money the government saved because of the report. Since the government is eligible for three times the actual amount of damages from the guilty party, whistleblower rewards can be substantial. You could receive thousands of dollars for coming forward.

Cons of Whistleblowing

Despite legal protections and the possibility of obtaining compensation for your actions, whistleblowing is not without a few potential disadvantages. Most whistleblowers end up working elsewhere after the incident, so if you love your job or your employer, you could be facing a change in office. Your status as a whistleblower could also prevent you from getting a job with other companies in the industry, even though discrimination for whistleblowing is against the law.

Your relationships with your coworkers and employer could suffer after blowing the whistle on legal or ethical violations. Coworkers may see your actions as a betrayal, and may not want to interact with you anymore. You may also have to deal with court dates, legal fees, and attorney costs – at least until (and unless) you receive compensation for your damages. Blowing the whistle could change your life in significant ways. However, the pros generally outweigh the cons, especially when you have an employment lawyer protecting your rights.

If you are thinking about coming forward with allegations against your employer, speak to a whistleblower lawyer about your case. Working with an attorney can protect you from many of the potential cons of whistleblowing, such as losing your job or facing retaliation in the workplace. One of the best benefits of coming forward is knowing you did the right thing.