A recent Forbes article terms it “a major question.”
That assessment seems squarely on the mark regarding government and corporate whistleblowers who consider taking action to spotlight an employer’s unlawful conduct. Doing so can be an uncertain and risk-laden proposition.
Forbes alludes to that by posing this query: “Where’s the line between a protected whistleblowing activity and unlawful behavior that could lead to civil or criminal liability?”
Indeed, that line can be blurry. That is the descriptor we employed in our December 23 blog post at the national employment legal offices of the Devadoss Law Firm. We noted therein that some individuals acting with a belief that legal protections back them still experience retaliatory responses for blowing the whistle on illegal employer behavior.
Is there an established and potent whistleblowing law?
Forbes duly notes that there is no single law applicable to whistleblowing cases.
In fact, “there are dozens,” authored by both federal and state legislators.
Obviously, that can prove complicating. The Forbes piece points to a road toward clarification, though. It is marked by “some overarching principles that can help determine if a given disclosure will receive whistleblower protections.” They include these analyzed bottom lines and queries:
- Consideration of what is sought to disclosed/protected from disclosure (e.g., a whistleblower is more likely to be protected if seeking to expose a manager’s fraud rather than top-level military secrets)
- Probe into how whistleblowing subject matter was taken
- Scrutiny of what was taken in terms of specific-versus-generalized data, and how much was divulged
- Parties to whom information was divulged
- Adherence to or flouting of internal reporting mandates
- Applicability of existing contractual provisions relevant to confidentiality and disclosure
An individual seeking to report wrongdoing can understandably be both a bit confused and frightened, notwithstanding laws and guidelines addressing whistleblowing. The Forbes piece stresses that any decision to take or disclose incriminating information might reasonably be preceded in most cases by close consultation with a proven whistleblowing legal team.