Facebook pixel
Skip to Main Content

Protecting Whistleblowers from Workplace Retaliation

two people looking at a document

In the United States, many acts, statutes, and laws protect whistleblowers from workplace retaliation, including wrongful termination.

There are countless stories of brave individuals who blew the whistle on corruption, fraud, illegal practices, or unsafe working conditions and helped improve entire industries. 

Unfortunately, those who report unethical or illegal working conditions to the proper authorities are at risk of retaliatory behavior from their employer. Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know about whistleblowing to protect yourself.

What is a Whistleblower?

A whistleblower is a person who reports unsafe, illegal, unethical, or improper workplace conditions to the authorities. Typically a whistleblower works for the organization they are reporting. 

Whistleblowers are courageous people willing to stand up and challenge poor and even dangerous working conditions, fighting for workers’ rights and the safety of those around them.

Whistleblowing can take many forms, including:

  • Reporting work-related injuries.
  • Filing a complaint with OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  • Requesting an inspection by OSHA.
  • Speaking with and reporting to an inspector from OSHA.
  • Reporting unethical conduct to a boss, an executive, the board, or even the police.
  • Reporting corruption to the proper authorities.
  • Reporting illegal activities to company executives, governing agencies, or even law enforcement.

Whistleblowing can be either internal or external. Internal is reporting wrongdoing to another individual within the company – typically a boss, executive, or another authority within the organization. External whistleblowing is reporting wrongdoing to a third party – typically a governing entity, the police, a law office, or even the media.

Whistleblowers are typically employed within the organization responsible for the wrongdoing, which leads to concerns about their employment, working conditions, or further retaliation.

Thankfully, whistleblowers have legal protections, keeping them safe from retaliation.

Is Whistleblowing a Crime?

Whistleblowing is the opposite of a crime: it’s a legally protected act. That means any person who engages in whistleblowing can expect legal protections established in The Whistleblower Protection Act.

The Whistleblower Protection Act protects courageous individuals willing to report illegal, unethical, corrupt, or unsafe practices occurring within an organization.

Whistleblowers help protect themselves, their fellow employees, and even the public. Whistleblowers create a transparent, safe, and accountable workplace we can all enjoy. Because of this, many protections and laws are designed to keep whistleblowers safe from any form of retaliation.

What Is The Whistleblower Protection Act?

The Whistleblower Protection Act, established in 1989, protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers.

While many different acts pertain to whistleblowers, The Whistleblower Protection Act applies specifically to federal employees who disclose “government illegality, waste, and corruption.” Bear in mind there are also many state-specific whistleblower laws, so research your state’s legislation. 

coworkers smiling looking at a document

What is Whistleblower Workplace Retaliation?

Retaliation is when an employer (or manager, supervisor, administrator, or other authority) punishes an employee through adverse action after whistleblowing.

Retaliation can be either subtle or blatant, often marked as a clear change in employer, manager, or supervisor behavior after whistleblowing, leading to a more difficult working environment, less opportunity, or even a change in responsibilities. Retaliation is always a negative consequence and often can impact the trajectory of your career.

Retaliation can be difficult to prove, and you should consult an experienced workplace employment lawyer or firm that specializes in whistleblower protection.

Examples of Whistleblower Retaliation

Common forms of retaliation and adverse consequences after whistleblowing include:

  • Firing or laying off
  • Demotion
  • Denying of promotion
  • Exclusion from professional development opportunities
  • Giving a lower-than-deserved review or performance evaluation
  • Denying overtime
  • Reduced work or pay hours
  • Intimidation, harassment, threats
  • Reassignment to a less desirable position
  • Reducing pay
  • Exclusion from company meetings, events, or training
  • Reporting an employee to police or immigration authorities.

If you face any of these consequences, or similar, after whistleblowing, then you should contact a whistleblower retaliation lawyer.

An example of retaliation would be when an employee reports unsafe working conditions to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and requests an inspection. After a boss or supervisor learns of the requested inspection and who requested the inspection, they reduce the employee’s working hours and move them to less desirable shifts.

This sort of retaliation is meant to have a chilling effect on whistleblowing and is legally protected against. Whistleblowing retaliation lawyers can help directly end any retaliation and even gain compensation for lost wages, damages, or distress.

How Do You Prove Whistleblower Workplace Retaliation?

To legally prove you’ve suffered from workplace retaliation, there are three components:

  1. Prove you engaged in a protected whistleblowing activity.
  2. Prove you suffered adverse workplace consequences.
  3. Prove the protected whistleblowing activity caused the adverse action.

Often, the most difficult component to prove is causation – that the adverse consequences are directly caused in retaliation of your whistleblowing – as there may not be any direct evidence, meaning circumstantial evidence is needed. This can include:

  • Timely proximity of adverse consequences to the whistleblowing event. In plain language, the adverse consequences started shortly after your whistleblowing or after your employer learned of your whistleblowing.
  • A change in reviews, performance evaluations, or write-ups that happen after the whistleblowing event, despite no actual change in performance.
  • Different standards of behavior and treatment applied to you compared to coworkers, especially before and after the whistleblowing.

All of this will need documentation support to prove. Keep and store any physical evidence that will support and help prove the retaliation. Common records you should keep:

  • Emails
  • Memos
  • Text messages
  • Voicemails
  • Performance evaluations
  • Write-ups
  • Statements from supportive coworkers.

Remember, it may be illegal to record people without their consent. Given the potential complexity, it’s best to consult your attorney or legal counsel if you’re suffering from retaliation after whistleblowing.

In many cases, employers defend retaliation by tying it to inadequate performance, incompetence, or circumstances not meant to be punitive. Whistleblowing retaliation cases are often emotionally charged and complex, which is why it’s important to seek legal representation if you find yourself in this position.

How to Safeguard Against Whistleblower Retaliation

Whistleblowers face reasonable concerns regarding retaliation. In the case of preventing retaliation, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – meaning the best way to avoid retaliation is to prevent it from happening.

That, of course, isn’t always possible.

Here are a few steps whistleblowers can take to help safeguard against retaliation:

  1. Review whistleblower protection acts relevant to your industry, situation, and local area.
  2. Attempt to remain anonymous when reporting workplace issues.
  3. Keep clear documentation of the workplace issues, your whistleblowing, and any potential retaliatory or adverse consequences.
  4. Contact a whistleblower protection law firm immediately to help protect you in case of retaliation.
  5. Continue to perform your duties and responsibilities to a high standard.

Ultimately, avoiding retaliation entirely may be impossible – which is when you should contact a lawyer or law firm to help with your case.

For employers, there are a few key steps they can take to prevent retaliation:

  1. Develop a whistleblowing policy, including anonymous internal channels.
  2. Communicate and document the policy for employees and managers.
  3. Establish a clear anti-retaliation policy.
  4. Offer instruction to supervisors and staff on identifying and reporting retaliatory behavior.
  5. Create an internal support structure for whistleblowers.

Organizations with strong support from internal whistleblowers ultimately strengthen themselves. These channels will help prevent corruption, illegal activities, unsafe work environments, and other issues that cause issues for employees and employers alike.

When To Hire a Whistleblower Retaliation Attorney

If you are the victim of retaliation in response to whistleblowing in your workplace, you should contact an attorney immediately.

Many attorneys – including Heidari Law Group – work under a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not pay unless they win a settlement or judgment in your favor.

There are many complexities to any whistleblowing retaliation case, including statute of limitations, proving the causation of the retaliation to the whistleblowing, and documenting any evidence of retaliation.

Whistleblower Retaliation Settlements

There is a wide range of protection and even rewards for whistleblowers. Common remedies for retaliation include:

  • Back pay: wages lost as a result of retaliation.
  • Front pay: wages to cover time needed to find new employment.
  • Reinstatement of employment
  • Out-of-pocket losses
  • Damages for pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs

Winning a whistleblower retaliation settlement also commonly leads to large changes within the employer themselves, including changes in policies, structure, or even personnel.

There is a long, long list of whistleblowers who helped save countless lives and transform the world as we know it today. 

two people looking at a document

FAQs on Whistleblower Protection and Workplace Retaliation

What Qualifies Someone as a Whistleblower?

  • A whistleblower is any employee or individual who exposes illegal, unethical, or unsafe practices within an organization. The reported misconduct can range from a violation of company policy to a breach of national law.

Are All Whistleblowers Protected Under the Law?

  • Yes, whistleblowers are protected under various laws. However, the level of protection can differ depending on the jurisdiction and the specific statute under which they report the misconduct. Federal laws and many state laws offer protections to whistleblowers.

What Are the First Steps a Whistleblower Should Take?

  • A whistleblower should document the misconduct in detail, including dates, times, and involved parties. Reporting the issue through the proper channels within the organization, if available and safe, is recommended before escalating it externally.

How Does One Report Workplace Retaliation?

  • Workplace retaliation can be reported to company HR, a supervisor not involved in the retaliation, or external bodies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States, depending on the nature of the retaliation.

Can a Whistleblower Remain Anonymous?

  • Many laws and reporting mechanisms allow whistleblowers to remain anonymous to protect their identity. However, maintaining anonymity can sometimes limit the investigation and response to their report.

What Are Common Signs of Workplace Retaliation?

  • Common signs include sudden poor performance reviews, demotion, exclusion from meetings or projects, harassment, and any negative change in treatment post-reporting.

How Long Do Whistleblower Retaliation Cases Take?

  • The length can vary significantly based on the complexity of the case, the investigation’s thoroughness, and the legal process involved. Cases can take anywhere from a few months to several years.

What Compensation Can Whistleblowers Receive?

  • Compensation may include back pay, reinstatement to their position, payment for legal fees, and damages for emotional distress. The specific remedies will depend on the case and the applicable laws.

Are There Any Risks in Being a Whistleblower?

  • Yes, whistleblowers may face retaliation, ostracism, and professional risks. However, legal protections aim to mitigate these risks and hold retaliating parties accountable.

How Can a Whistleblower Prove Retaliation?

  • To prove retaliation, a whistleblower must demonstrate that they engaged in a protected activity (reporting misconduct), and suffered an adverse action from their employer, and a causal connection exists between the activity and the adverse action.

Can a Whistleblower Lawsuit Affect Future Employment?

  • While a whistleblower lawsuit may raise concerns about future employment due to stigma or misunderstanding, many whistleblowers find employment in organizations that value integrity and transparency. Legal protections also exist to prevent discrimination against whistleblowers.

***Disclaimer: This webpage has been crafted by Heidari Law Group solely for educational purposes. The content of this article aims to offer a broad comprehension of the law and does not constitute specific legal advice. By accessing this site and perusing its contents, no attorney-client relationship is established between you and any member of Heidari Law. Additionally, it’s important to note that the legal landscape is subject to continuous change, rendering some of the information provided herein potentially outdated or no longer applicable.

Sam Heidari

Free Case Evaluation 24/7

Contact Us




Rear-End Accidents


Sideswipe Accidents

$1.1 Million

Head-On Accidents

$2.0 Million

T-Bone Accidents

$1.0 Million

Single-Vehicle Accidents

Case Results

$3.3 Million

Motorcycle Accident

$2.0 Million

Car accident

$1.4 Million

Brain Injury

$1.1 Million

Motor Vehicle Accident





Contact Us

24/7 Free Case Evaluation