Find out if you qualify for whistleblower protection -- or even a reward.

Jackson Spencer Law

Is Your Company Breaking the Law?

If you learn your company is doing something illegal, you can find yourself stuck between a rock and hard place – feeling a responsibility to report misconduct, but afraid of losing your job if you speak out. Maybe your boss let it slip that the company didn’t report everything it should have to the IRS, or maybe you came across a document that revealed your employer is stealing from its clients. If your employer is publicly traded or uses federal funds (for example, a defense contractor or Medicare reimbursement recipient), there are even more laws to protect you if you blow the whistle on fraud.

While it might be daunting to consider reporting your employer for wrongdoing, there are laws to protect and even reward those who report unethical or illegal behavior, and it can be illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for reporting unlawful behavior.

Whistleblower Protections

Federal and state laws encourage whistleblowers to report fraud and provide protection from retaliation for reporting or participating in the investigation of misconduct.

These laws include the federal Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Texas Whistleblower Act, and the False Claims Act. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and 42 U.S.C § 1983 also prohibit the government from retaliating against its employees for exercising their right to freedom of speech regarding a matter of public concern, providing further protection for whistleblowers.

Some states have general whistleblower protections as a matter of public policy for reporting or opposing illegal activity; other states, like Texas, offer more limited protections, unless you were fired solely for refusing your employer’s instruction to commit a crime. This exception, called a Sabine Pilot claim in Texas, is the only whistleblower-type protection in Texas not found in a statute.

Some whistleblower protection laws require that you take action in as little as 30 days after an act of retaliation, so it is important to call us as soon as you suspect you’ve been retaliated against. 

Rewards

Many whistleblowing laws allow for rewards paid to the whistleblower, with payouts varying depending on the variety of whistleblowing, the type of company reported, the quality of the claim, and the amount of money recovered.

FAQ About Blowing the Whistle at Work

The False Claims Act

The False Claims Act protects the government against a company knowingly falsifying information to obtain public funds, overcharging for products or services, providing the government with inferior products or services, keeping an accidental overpayment from the government, or avoiding paying the government (for obligations other than taxes).

Claims can be brought by anyone with proof of the fraud, including people who are not company employees and non U.S. citizens. Claims are brought in the name of the government, known as qui tam lawsuit, and plaintiffs (qui tam relators) can be awarded up to 30% of the government’s recovery.

The Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act

This legislation is dedicated to stopping Medicaid fraud, with whistleblowers eligible for incentive awards of up to 30% of the proceeds.

The IRS Whistleblower Program

If you report illegal activity to the IRS with evidence that a company is avoiding paying or underpaying taxes and your evidence will substantially contribute to recovering at least $2 million, you are protected under this program and may be awarded up to 30% of the amount recovered.

The same laws that prohibit discriminating against an employee on the basis of their race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, age, and other protected characteristics also prohibit retaliation against employees who blow the whistle on discrimination by reporting violations to the employer, the EEOC, or state agencies, or by participating in internal or governmental investigations into discriminatory practices.

OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers at least 22 laws protecting whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting violations, including those related to workplace safety, asbestos hazards, toxic waste, water pollution, air pollution, CERCLA/Superfund claims, consumer product safety, food safety, shipping, railroad and transportation safety, and financial sector violations (SOX and Dodd-Frank), among others.

If you’ve blown the whistle on unsafe working conditions or not being paid minimum wages or for overtime, you may be protected from retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, or through laws governed by OSHA.

Transportation Safety

Federal laws protect whistleblowers reporting or refusing to work in unsafe conditions within the aviation, rail, shipping, and public transit industries. These laws include:

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) was created to protect the public from serious, sometimes fatal, defects in automobiles. Employees who reveal information about auto manufacturing defects or information about companies covering up such defects, would be protected under this act.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act provides an incentive award for whistleblowers of motor vehicle defects.

The Surface Transportation Assistant Act protects commercial truck drivers and others responsible for the safety of commercial vehicles who report truck safety issues or who refuse to drive due to safety concerns.

The Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21) protects air carrier employees and contractors from retaliation for reporting aviation safety violations.

The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships aims to prevent harm to the world’s oceans by holding companies accountable for illegal dumping of oil and other dangerous liquids. Whistleblowers may be awarded up to 50% of any fines assessed against violators.

Additional protections include The Federal Railroad Safety Act, the Seaman’s Protection Act, and the National Transit System Security Act.

Health Care

The Texas Health & Safety Code and the Texas Human Resources Code contain numerous provisions prohibiting the termination of whistleblowers who report patient or resident abuse within the health care industry, including by nurses, hospital employees, treatment facilities, and mental and aging care facilities.

The Dodd-Frank Act

This legislation specifically protects whistleblowing to the SEC and CFTC for violations of the federal securities and commodity futures laws.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)

SOX protects whistleblowers who report publicly traded companies for financial wrongdoing and fraud against shareholders to governmental authorities. It also protects internal complainants.

SEC and CFTC Whistleblower Programs

These programs protect people who report violations of the Securities Exchange Act, the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act, and other laws to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) andCommodities  Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Whistleblowers under these programs may receive incentive awards of 10% to 30% of the amounts recovered for claims of at least $1 million.

Companies and employees in the financial sector (accountants, investment managers, securities firms, etc.) can be reported under these programs for many types of misconduct, including:

  • unlawful market manipulation,
  • violating anti-bribery laws,
  • fund misappropriation (such as Ponzi schemes),
  • insider trading,
  • making secret transactions, and
  • operating without proper licensing.

Anyone can voluntarily report a claim, including non U.S. citizens or residents. Activity that does not occur in the U.S. can also be reported as long as it affects U.S. markets.

The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA)

FIRREA protects whistleblowers who report federally insured financial institutions for illegal activity, such as embezzlement, illegal bookkeeping activity, and mail fraud. Whistleblowers may be awarded a percentage of the recovered funds, up to $1.6 million.

Federal and state laws protect government employees, and employees of federal contractors, for reporting or participating in the investigation of violations by the governmental employer or a co-worker of any law, rule, or regulation, misuse of government funds, abuses of authority, or dangers to public health or safety.  These laws include the federal Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, the National Defense Authorization Act and the Texas Whistleblower Act.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and 42 U.S.C § 1983 also prohibit the government from retaliating against its employees for exercising their right to freedom of speech regarding a matter of public concern, providing further protection for governmental whistleblowers.

Trucking and Motor Vehicle Safety

  • The Surface Transportation Assistant Act protects commercial truck drivers and others responsible for the safety of commercial vehicles who report truck safety issues or who refuse to drive due to safety concerns.
  • The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (“MAP-21”) was created to protect the public from serious, sometimes fatal, defects in automobiles. Employees who reveal information about auto manufacturing defects, or information about companies covering up such defects, would be protected under this act.
  • The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act can provide an incentive award for whistleblowers of motor vehicle defects.

Other Transportation Whistleblower Protections

  • The Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships aims to prevent harm to the world’s oceans by holding companies accountable for illegal dumping of oil and other dangerous liquids.  Whistleblowers may be awarded up to 50% of any fines assessed against violators.
  • Federal laws also protect whistleblowers who report or refuse to work in unsafe conditions within the aviation, rail, shipping, and public transit industries.  These laws include the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (“AIR21”), the Federal Railroad Safety Act, the Seaman’s Protection Act, and the National Transit System Security Act.

The Texas Health & Safety Code and the Texas Human Resources Code contain numerous provisions that prohibit terminating whistleblowers who report patient or resident abuse within the health care industry, including by nurses, hospital employees, treatment facilities, and mental and aging care facilities.

All of the various environment and natural wildlife protection statutes – including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Lacey Act, the Wild Bird Conservation Act, and the Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act – contain whistleblower protections.

Woman confronting shadowy image of a large whistle, symbolizing whistleblowers

How to spot whistleblower retaliation and what to do:

Jackson Spencer Law

How to spot illegal retaliation:

Whistleblowing retaliation can take many forms. If any of the following actions were taken against you shortly after you blew the whistle on your employer, you may be the victim of illegal retaliation:

  • Harm to your personal or professional reputation
  • Withholding pay or benefits
  • Termination or demotion without apparent cause
  • Loss of shifts
  • Unprompted job changes
  • Sudden pay cuts
  • Unsupported disciplinary actions or unexplained poor performance reviews

If you think you’re being retaliated against for blowing the whistle:

  • Don’t confront anyone. Chances are, you won’t be able to fix any problems this way and it might make matters worse for you in the long run.
  • Keep doing your job to the best of your ability. It may be difficult, but it’s important to not give the company an independent excuse to take action against you. Keep a cool head and observe any changes in your work life.
  • Make a list of any changing supervisory behavior, surprise job changes, disciplinary actions, or demotions. Be specific and include as many dates, times, and names as you can. Keep this list at home.
  • Reach out to an attorney to discuss your case.

The same laws that prohibit workplace discrimination also prohibit retaliation against employees who blow the whistle on discriminatory practices.

Don’t forget: many people who experience whistleblower retaliation can have their attorney’s fees covered as part of a settlement or judgment.

Need a Lawyer? Let Us Help You

Whistleblowing can get complicated. Call us at 800-596-5074 or fill out a case detail form on this website.

Our Attorneys

Fighting for Employees in Texas

Experienced. Knowledgable. Caring.

The attorneys at Jackson Spencer Law are here for you.  We know the law — and we know the rights and protections that workers have. Whether it’s negotiating a severance package or a settlement with an employer, navigating the complexities of a whistleblower case or taking a discrimination lawsuit to court — we’re the legal team you need in Texas.

Attorney Jennifer Spencer on phone

Jennifer Spencer

Attorney

An experienced trial lawyer and known for an aggressive, organized, and highly effective litigation style. A champion for the rights of those who have been wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, sexually harassed, terminated after whistleblowing, passed over for promotions or otherwise wrongfully treated in the workplace.

    Attorney Neal Bridges at his computer

    Neal Bridges

    Attorney

    Counsels and represents client with employment and severance issues, including reviewing and advising clients on the terms of a severance agreement, negotiating on an employee’s behalf to increase the amount of a severance package, to representing clients in litigation over wrongful termination, workplace discrimination or retaliation, and more.

    James Hunnicut

    James Hunnicut

    Attorney

    Counsels and represents clients in a variety of business, employment, and complex commercial litigation matters in state and federal courts.

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