A whistleblower lawsuit may not be the most common kind of case in a given court, but these kinds of litigation are more common than some would think. A whistleblower lawsuit is when a person comes forward to give the court important information that is the partial or primary basis for a court trial or hearing. The “whistleblower,” who is a prime witness, who generally has inside information about a company or other party that is the defendant in the case.
A whistleblower lawsuit is often related to workplace discrimination. The whistleblower may have faced wrongful termination, workplace harassment, a hostile work environment, unsafe work conditions, or any other conditions that are illegal under established employment law. These kinds of employment related cases may have one or multiple whistleblowers, and may lead to a class action suit that involves more than one plaintiff or victim. These cases may also be prosecuted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency set up to monitor violations of employment law.
In other whistleblower lawsuit cases, the focus is on public health and safety. Many whistleblower lawsuits are cases of product liability, where business leaders do not want news about a product hazard to reach the public audience. These cases can be extremely contentious, as in the “big tobacco” lawsuits of decades past, where whistleblowers helped establish what was happening behind closed doors in the large tobacco companies that were defendants. Other whistleblower lawsuits address general actions by defendants that threaten the health of workers, the welfare of the general public, or both.
One important aspect in whistleblower lawsuits is known in legal terminology as retaliation. Whistleblowers often face retaliation when their testimony in court becomes known, or when they complain to human resources departments or other outlets within a company. Retaliation in workplace related whistleblower lawsuits can involve financial and professional consequences such as docked pay, blocked promotions, or wrongful termination. It can also refer to verbal or physical threats or harassment.
When the safety of a whistleblower is threatened, the prosecution may take steps to protect the individual from harm. This has been prominently demonstrated in a variety of popular films and television programs. Keeping witnesses safe is an absolutely important part of what public district attorney’s offices and other prosecutors do for those who are brave enough to testify in a whistleblower lawsuit, and most prosecutors agree that these individuals deserve the investment of public resources to guarantee their safety.