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A Brief Introduction to Whistleblower Protections

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Employer arrested for illegal activity on Long Island.

Working for an employer that engages in illegal activities can be a very difficult position to be in. Many people fear that if they report the illegal activity, they will be fired or face other serious repercussions that will directly impact their financial future. This is why the federal government, as well as the State of New York, have enacted “whistleblower” laws to provide protections to those who find themselves in this difficult position.

If you’re thinking about reporting an individual or an entire company to the authorities, it is a good idea to have a strong understanding of the applicable whistleblower protections that will apply to your situation.

Federal Whistleblower Protections

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a federal law that offers significant protections to whistleblowers who work for the government. The act was put in place to help give employees throughout the country the confidence to report illegal activities that take place without any repercussions being taken against them. Over the years, the protections offered under this act have helped prevent the loss of billions of dollars.

Writ of Qui Tam

One term that is commonly used in governmental whistleblower cases is that of “qui tam,” which is short for a Latin phrase, “qui tam pro domingo rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” This simply means, “who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.” Used in these types of cases, it is meant to show that the whistleblower will get a portion of any funds that are recovered due to their reporting of the illegal activity. This specifically has to do with cases that cost taxpayers money, such as Medicare fraud, government contractor fraud, and more.

New York Whistleblower Protections

In addition to the federal laws, New York offers protections for whistleblowers under New York Labor Law 740. This law states that employers may not retaliate against any employee who does any of the following:

  • Reports or threatens to disclose activities, practices, policies, or actions that violate laws or regulations.
  • Provides information or testifies against their employer related to an investigation or a hearing about a violation of a law or regulations.

The informant must report their concerns to their supervisor and give them a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem in order to qualify for these protections. In cases where there is an immediate threat to themselves or others, it is not necessary to delay reporting the situation to the proper authorities.

Whistleblower Protections Are Complex – Get the Help You Need

Whistleblower laws are quite complex and need to be understood properly in order to take advantage of them. If you are thinking about reporting an employer, make sure you contact us to discuss your situation and ensure you handle everything correctly in order to ensure your own protection. If you have already been terminated for attempting to report a violation of a law or regulation, you may have a wrongful termination case as well. Contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP today to discuss your case.