What Laws Protect Whistleblowers From Retaliation?
When a whistleblower comes forward to disclose fraud, unlawful conduct, risks to public health, or other wrongdoing, the whistleblower should be rewarded for doing the right thing. But all too often, whistleblowers suffer retaliation. Federal and state whistleblower retaliation laws prohibit a wide range of retaliatory adverse employment actions and offer robust remedies. Our experienced and effective whistleblower retaliation lawyers are committed to seeking justice for whistleblowers and zealously prosecuting whistleblower retaliation claims so that all workers can speak up without fear of reprisal.
Leading whistleblower firm Zuckerman Law represents whistleblowers nationwide. If you are seeking representation in a whistleblower retaliation or whistleblower protection case, click here, or call our whistleblower retaliation lawyers at 202-262-8959 to schedule a confidential consultation. In 2019, the National Law Review awarded Jason Zuckerman its “Go-To Thought Leadership Award” for his analysis of developments in whistleblower law. We represent whistleblowers nationwide.
Click here to read reviews of our whistleblower retaliation lawyers from clients that we have represented in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation matters. We handle claims under a variety of whistleblower laws, including the following:
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act (protecting whistleblower disclosures about violations of SEC rules and regulations; violations of federal laws related to fraud against shareholders; or mail, wire, bank or securities fraud). Download our free ebook, Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Protection: Robust Protection for Corporate Whistleblowers.
- Taxpayer First Act (protecting whistleblowing about tax fraud or tax underpayment)
- Dodd-Frank Act (protecting whistleblowing to the SEC and CFTC)
- Whistleblower Protection Act (protecting whistleblowers in the federal government)
- False Claims Act and NDAA (protecting whistleblowers working for federal contractors)
- Energy Reorganization Act (protecting disclosures about nuclear safety or violations of Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules)
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (protecting disclosures about aviation safety)
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act (protecting whistleblower disclosures in the trucking industry about commercial motor vehicle safety)
- Consumer Financial Protection Act (protecting disclosures concerning consumer financial protection)
- Federal Railroad Safety Act (protecting disclosures about rail safety and security)
- National Transit Systems Security Act (protecting transit employees from retaliation for disclosing a hazardous safety or security condition)
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (protecting disclosures about consumer product safety)
- Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) (protecting disclosures about food safety)
- Whistleblowers that have suffered retaliation in violation of whistleblower protection policies in corporate codes of ethics.
Founding Principal Jason Zuckerman has established precedent under a wide range of whistleblower protection laws and obtained substantial compensation for his clients and recoveries for the government in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation cases. Some of the cases he has worked on are featured in Tom Mueller’s seminal book about whistleblowing Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud and Dan Maldea’s Corruption in U.S. Higher Education: The Stories of Whistleblowers.
Damages or Remedies in Whistleblower Whistleblower Retaliation Cases
Under some whistleblower protection laws, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate whistleblower protection law, there is no cap or limitation on special damages (damages for emotional distress and reputational harm). Recently, a whistleblower recovered approximately $11M in a SOX whistleblower case, which included punitive damages awarded under state law.
The whistleblower retaliation lawyers at Zuckerman Law have compiled a list of some of the largest verdicts and settlements in whistleblower retaliation cases, which is posted here. For more information about whistleblower damages or remedies, click here and see these recent posts about SOX jury verdicts:
Frequently Asked Questions About Whistleblower Retaliation Laws
Protected Whistleblowing Under Whistleblower Retaliation Laws
- Is a whistleblower’s motive for engaging in a protected activity relevant in a whistleblower protection case?
- Are disclosures made in the course of performing one’s job duties protected?
- To engage in protected conduct, must a whistleblower cite a specific violation of law or regulation?
- Must a whistleblower prove that the individual who made the final decision to take the adverse action has personal knowledge of the whistleblower’s protected activity?
- What is perceived whistleblowing?
- Can whistleblowers use company documents to expose fraud?
- Can False Claims Act whistleblowers use confidential documents to report fraud to the government?
- Can Whistleblowers Disclose Secret Recordings to the SEC?
- Is an employee protected against retaliation for participating in an employer’s internal investigation?
- Does retaliation against an employee due to the employee’s testimony in federal court violate civil rights laws?
- Are cybersecurity whistleblowers protected against retaliation?
- Are whistleblowers at government contractors and grantees protected against retaliation?
- Does the False Claims Act prohibit whistleblower retaliation?
- What whistleblower laws protect accountants?
- What law protects whistleblowing about tax fraud or violations of IRS rules?
- What law protects federal employees against whistleblower retaliation?
- Are second-hand whistleblower reports credible, and do they merit investigation?
Forms of Whistleblower Retaliation
- What is whistleblower retaliation?
- Is a lawsuit against a whistleblower actionable retaliation?
- What is anticipatory retaliation?
- What is constructive discharge?
- Is a negative performance evaluation an actionable retaliatory action or adverse employment action?
- Is administrative leave or a paid suspension an adverse employment action?
- Is a warning letter an adverse employment action?
- Is a threat to take a disciplinary action an adverse employment action?
- Is an employer’s attempt to stop a corporate whistleblower from blowing the whistle to the government actionable retaliation?
- Is denial of a transfer away from a biased supervisor an adverse action?
- Is assigning a sales employee a low performing territory an adverse employment action?
- Is threatened disciplinary action an adverse action under the whistleblower retaliation laws?
- Do whistleblower protection laws bar associational discrimination or associational retaliation?
- Is placing a whistleblower under surveillance actionable retaliation?
- What is preemptive retaliation?
- Is retaliation that occurred outside of the statute-of-limitations period relevant evidence of retaliation?
Proving Whistleblower Retaliation
- How can a whistleblower prove retaliation?
- Does an employer’s failure to follow its personnel policies and practices prove retaliation?
- What are some methods to prove pretext in retaliation and discrimination cases?
- Does subjecting an employee to heightened scrutiny evidence retaliation?
- Is an employer’s knowledge of protected whistleblowing a separate element of a whistleblower retaliation case?
- Why should courts be skeptical of an adverse employment action taken based on subjective criteria?
- Does a whistleblower’s disclosure of his misconduct deny the whistleblower protection under whistleblower retaliation laws?
- What is the “reasonable cause” standard in an OSHA whistleblower investigation?
- What is the burden-shifting framework under most DOL whistleblower protection laws?
Whistleblower Retaliation Damages/Remedies
- Does a whistleblower have to sustain economic damages to bring a claim?
- Can whistleblowers recover damages for reputational harm?
- How is interest on back pay calculated?
- What are emotional distress damages and how do I prove them?
- What is front pay?
- Can OSHA order the reinstatement of a Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower?
- What is the duty to mitigate damages?
Whistleblower Rights and Whistleblower Retaliation Laws
- When does the statute of limitations in DOL whistleblower retaliation cases commence?
- Does the failure to name the employer’s business entity correctly in an OSHA administrative complaint constitute a failure to exhaust administrative remedies?
- Does OSHA prohibit gag clauses in settlement agreements?
- What rules and procedures govern OSHA investigations?
- Does OSHA protect the confidentiality of a witness in an OSHA whistleblower investigation?
- Are employer non-disclosure contracts and policies barring whistleblowing enforceable?
- Will I get a reward for reporting fraud being committed by my employer?
- Does the breach of an anti-retaliation policy in a Code of Ethics give rise to a retaliation claim?
- What laws prohibit defense contractors from retaliating against whistleblowers?
- What whistleblower laws protect corporate officers and executives?
- What are the differences between Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower protection?
Top-Rated Whistleblower Retaliation and Whistleblower Protection Lawyers
Before hiring a whistleblower retaliation lawyer to prosecute your whistleblower case, assess the lawyer’s prior experience representing whistleblowers, knowledge of whistleblower laws, and prior results. And consider the experience of other whistleblowers working with that attorney. See reviews from former clients by clicking here.
- In 2017 and 2018, Washingtonian magazine named two of our attorneys top whistleblower lawyers.
- U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area.
- Both Eric Bachman and Jason Zuckerman served on the Department of Labor’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the Secretary of Labor to improve OSHA’s administration of federal whistleblower protections.
- Firm Principal Jason Zuckerman was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2019, 2017, 2015, 2009, and 2007 selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® in the category of employment law (2011-2020), and selected by his peers to be listed in SuperLawyers (2012 and 2015-2020) in the category of labor and employment law. is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, based largely on client reviews, and rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell based on peer reviews.
- Eric Bachman and Jason Zuckerman served in senior positions at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers in the federal government. At OSC, they oversaw investigations of whistleblower claims and obtained corrective action or relief for whistleblowers.
- The firm has published extensively on whistleblower rights and protections, and speaks nationwide at seminars and continuing legal education conferences. We blog about new developments under whistleblower retaliation and rewards laws at the Whistleblower Protection Blog.
- The firm is routinely quoted in the media about whistleblower rights and protections
To learn more about whistleblower rewards or whistleblower protections, call the whistleblower retaliation lawyers at leading whistleblower firm Zuckerman Law for a free consultation at 202-262-8959, or click here.
And for information about the SEC’s Whistleblower Reward Program, download our free ebook SEC Whistleblower Program: Tips from SEC Whistleblower Attorneys to Maximize an SEC Whistleblower Award.
SOX Whistleblower Lawyer’s Guide to SOX Whistleblower Protection Law
On the fifteenth anniversary of SOX, leading whistleblower law firm Zuckerman Law released a free guide to the SOX whistleblower protection law: Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Protection: Robust Protection for Corporate Whistleblowers. The guide summarizes SOX whistleblower protections and offers concrete tips for corporate whistleblowers based on lessons learned during years of litigating SOX whistleblower cases.
The goal of the guide is to arm corporate whistleblowers with the knowledge to effectively combat whistleblower retaliation, avoid the pitfalls that can weaken a SOX whistleblower case, and formulate an effective strategy to obtain the maximum recovery.
- See our column in Forbes: One Billion Reasons Why The SEC Whistleblower-Reward Program Is Effective.
- See our column in Going Concern: Sarbanes-Oxley 15 Years Later: Accountants Need to Speak Up Now More Than Ever.
- See our post in Accounting Today: Whistleblower Protections and Incentives for Auditors and Accountants.
- See our post in The Compliance and Ethics Blog: Shkreli Trial Reveals the Challenges Faced by Compliance Whistleblowers.
False Claims Act Whistleblower Retaliation Lawyers
The whistleblower protections of the False Claims Act and the NDAA protect strong protections for employees of federal contractors and grantees.
See our answers to frequently asked questions about False Claims Act whistleblower protection law.
See our answers to frequently asked questions about False Claims Act qui tam whistleblower awards.
For more information about whistleblower protections for employees of government contractors and grantees, including Department of Defense contractors, see our Practical Law Practice Note titled Whistleblower Protections Under the National Defense Authorization Act. This Practice Note surveys the legal protections for employees of federal contractors, subcontractors, and grantees that receive federal funds who report waste, fraud, or abuse involving federal funds, a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
In addition, the outline explains the procedures that govern the filing, investigation and adjudication of National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) whistleblower retaliation claims.
Topics covered include:
- Protected whistleblowing under the NDAA.
- The scope of coverage of the NDAA’s whistleblower protection provisions.
- The reasonable belief standard governing NDAA protected whistleblowing.
- Proving “contributing factor” causation
- The same-decision affirmative defense
- Remedies or damages available to prevailing NDAA whistleblowers.
Whistleblower Protection Act Lawyers
Whistleblower attorneys Eric Bachman and Jason Zuckerman, former senior officials at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, have released a guide for federal employee whistleblowers titled The Whistleblower Protection Act: Empowering Federal Employees to Root Out Waste, Fraud and Abuse and is available for download by clicking here. The goal of the guide is to inform federal employees about the whistleblower rights and protections available under the Whistleblower Protection Act, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and the Follow the Rules Act.
This guide provides an overview of the WPA and offers practical tips for navigating some of the challenging issues that often arise in whistleblower cases. Topics covered include:
- What Disclosures are Protected Under the Whistleblower Protection Act?
- Does the Whistleblower Protection Act Protect Employees Who Exercise an Appeal or Grievance Right?
- Prohibited Forms of Whistleblower Retaliation
- Proving Knowledge of Protected Whistleblowing
- Proving Causation
- What is an Agency’s Burden to Avoid Liability Once the Whistleblower Has Proved Causation?
- Seeking Relief from Retaliation
- Election of Remedies
- Can OSC Seek a Stay of a Personnel Action?
- Damages or Remedies for Retaliation
- Gag Orders and Non-Disclosure Agreements
Video FAQs About Whistleblower Protection and Retaliation Laws
What is the Whistleblower Protection Act?
Does a SOX whistleblower need to prove that the employer’s reason for the adverse action is untrue?
What federal laws protect whistleblowers against retaliation?
Is threatening a countersuit against a whistleblower an act of retaliation?
Does the Sarbanes-Oxley Act protect whistleblowing in the course of performing one’s job duties?
Is knowledge of protected conduct and close temporal proximity sufficient to prove retaliation?
How can a whistleblower prove retaliation?
Does OSHA prohibit gag clauses in settlement agreements?
Where are SOX whistleblower cases litigated?
Is a lawsuit against a whistleblower actionable retaliation?
- OSHA Clarifies Investigative Standard for OSHA Whistleblower Investigations
- OSHA Awards $350,000 in Damages to Railroad Whistleblower
- OSHA Awards $250,000 in Punitive Damages in FRSA Whistleblower Retaliation Case
- OSHA Orders Pilot Reinstated in Airline Whistleblower Case
- Fifth Circuit Holds that “Outing” a Whistleblower is an Adverse Action Under SOX
- Whistleblower Obtains Restraining Order to Halt Retaliation
- Whistleblower Attorney Zuckerman Quoted in Washington Post About SEC Order
- Article Reports on Petition to Strengthen Whistleblower Rights
- Whistleblower Advocates Petition DOL to Combat Corporate Muzzling of Whistleblowers
- ARB Decision Clarifies Favorable Causation Standard for Whistleblowers
- Whistleblower Lawyer Co-Authors Article About De Facto Gag Clauses
There are many laws that protect corporate whistleblowers against retaliation. There are many variations in these laws, but all of them usually have four elements. One, did the employee blow the whistle on an issue that is protected under the statute? For example, did the employee raise a concern about a violation of an SEC rule? That would be protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Number two. Did the employer know about the employees protected activity or suspect that the employee blew the whistle? Number three. Was there some adverse employment action, some harmful action to the employee? Number four. Is there a link between the protected whistleblowing and that adverse employment action? Under these laws, corporate whistleblowers can get a wide variety of remedies. Those include loss pay, emotional distress damages, loss future earnings, and under some laws, a corporate whistleblower can recover punitive damages.
ABOUT ZUCKERMAN LAW
We are a Washington, DC-based law firm that represents whistleblowers in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation matters and litigates discrimination claims on behalf of employees in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. The firm is dedicated to zealously advocating on behalf of our clients to achieve justice and accountability.