Concepts and Procedures in Whistleblower Law

By Stephen M. Kohn | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Federal Statutory Protection
for Whistleblowers

The failure of Congress to pass comprehensive legislation adequately covering employees who "blow the whistle" on illegal governmental or corporate conduct is the single most remarkable deficiency in the protection of legitimate whistleblower activity. Despite this failure, whistleblowers can obtain legal protection under a host of state and federal remedies. The First Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1871, the environmental and nuclear whistleblower statutes, and the False Claims Act all provide relief for employees who are covered under these particular provisions. In addition to these laws, Congress has provided a network of protections for whistleblowers under a host of additional statutes.1 Although none of these statutes provides comprehensive protection, each of these laws protects employees in specific industries who blow the whistle on specific types of alleged misconduct. Thus, even in the absence of a true federal whistleblower protection act, employees may find protection.

These statutory remedies cover a significant cross section of the American workforce but are riddled with loopholes. For example, only employees who engage in certain specific whistleblower conduct in certain specifically protected industries are covered under federal law. Each potential whistleblower case must be evaluated on the basis of who the employer is, what the disclosure concerns, and in which state the whistleblowing occurred. On the basis of these variables, an attorney must review various federal laws to determine if the employee is protected and exactly what procedures should be followed in filing a claim for redress.2

Each federal statute generally includes its own definition of protected activity, the statute of limitations for filing an action under the law, and

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