The Legal Protection
Legal protection for individuals has been increasingly extended since the 1960s to nearly all aspects of social life, and whistleblowing is no exception. A wide range of laws now protect federal employees from retaliatory discharge in a variety of work settings. Legislative statutes in many states offer protection to employees in the public sector, and similar protection is provided to workers in private business in some states. Judicial rulings that make up the evolving states' common law about "at-will" terminations also provide the basis for legal action against unlawful employment practices. Administrative rules and codes of ethics in some professions are other forums for the protection of employees.
Knowing your legal rights and the particular activities that are legally protected is essential for becoming a successful whistleblower. Unfortunately, an accurate determination of what constitutes a protected activity and wrongful discharge is often difficult to predict, is usually written in a language not understandable by nonlawyers, and varies dramatically across different types of employees and state boundaries.