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What are the Different Types of Whistleblower Protections?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Whistleblower protections include protections from direct reprisal on the job, as well as discrimination. These protections are designed to create an incentive for people who report violations of the law by assuring them that they will not lose their jobs or be otherwise penalized for informing government agencies. The level of protection available depends on the nation, as there are differing laws globally, as well as the industry the whistleblower is informing on.

Governments recognize that most whistleblowers are internal, providing information about their own employers and working conditions. This can be dangerous, as once the government takes action, the whistleblower's identity may be revealed, and retaliation could occur. Laws providing whistleblower protections specifically outlaw activities like firing or demoting employees, as well as cutting wages, reducing benefits, and taking other adverse actions. In addition, if people can document employment discrimination as a result of reporting hazards, this may also be banned under whistleblower protections.

Under the law, people have a set period of time to report violations of whistleblower protections. If they fail to take action within this period, they may not be able to access any legal remedies. The length of time allotted varies; it may be 30 days, 60 days, or even longer. People who are preparing to provide information about legal violations may want to familiarize themselves with the applicable laws; many governments have an office of whistleblower protection with this kind of information, as well as a hotline for reporting tips.

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People can report health and safety violations, fraud, unethical activities, and other violations of the law directly to a whistleblower agency or to an individual government agency. A person noting irregularities in energy billing, for example, could contact a public utilities commission to provide information. The report must include as much documentation as possible so the regulatory agency can follow up on it, and whistleblower protections usually include a mandate to avoid disclosing the whistleblower's identity, if at all possible.

It can be difficult for people to prove that adverse reactions were related to whistleblowing activities. Companies are usually careful to avoid suggesting that they are punishing people who make reports to the government and may provide documentation to demonstrate that there was a another reason for an action. A firing, for instance, is accompanied with documentation of warnings about behavior on the job. If people can prove that they were discriminated against or forced to work in a hostile environment, they can win a settlement from the employer to compensate them for any hardships experienced.

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