When the average American hears the term whistleblower, they may think of a specific individual they have seen on the news referred to by that title. Still, many may ask, “What does whistleblower mean?” While there are different types of whistleblowers, a good picture is the referee on the field who blows his whistle when there is a violation of the established rules of the game. The same thing happens in the corporate and federal world when someone sees such a violation.
Types of Whistleblowers
When asking what does whistleblower means, it is important to understand that there are some differences. First let me give you the definition of a whistleblower. Simply stated the term whistle blower means “a person who informs on a person or organization engaged in illicit or illegal activity.”
There are basically two types of whistleblowers: Corporate and Federal. While there are many different areas where reporting can occur, they are generally separated by whether they are in the private (corporate) or public (federal) sector.
This type of individual might reveal violations of a statutory or regulatory nature, such as health and safety reporting, or fiscal violations within the private corporation or company for which they are working.
This individual may report on illicit activity that is more directly tied to the federal government. This individual can be a federal employee or work in the private sector. In each case they would be reporting improprieties that directly affect the government.
A great example of this type of activity would be reporting Medicare fraud. An employee of a private medical firm could report fraudulent billing practices that cost the taxpayers billions of dollars each year.
Now when we have definition of whistleblower let’s look on some synonyms.
A simple look at the synonyms attached to the term whistleblower, and what the term used to mean will show just how difficult it is to perform this type of service. Some of the most common synonyms for whistleblower are:
- Stool pigeon – most common synonym for whistleblower
Those doing the wrong, in an attempt to vilify the one holding them accountable for their actions, created these types of words.
Are Whistle blowers Protected?
Thankfully we have been moving in the direction of offering more protections for whistleblowers in the last decade. Laws such as the False Claims Act and the Whistleblower Enhanced Protection Act offer significant protections against personal loss and retaliation for whistleblowers on both the federal and corporate levels.
New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act or CEPA is another good example of protections on the corporate level. CEPA protects an employee from retaliation by their employer if they do any of the following.
- Discloses activity by employer or business associate of employer that they reasonably believe to be in violation of the law.
- Testifies before a public body or provides information for such a hearing.
- Refuses to participate in activity believed to be in violation of the law.
It is encouraging to see states taking steps to protect the right of conscience and the right of the employee to what they believe to be the right thing.
While protections are in place and are currently being strengthened, it is important to know that if you choose to become a whistleblower you may still face retaliation for your actions. Lawsuits can help you reclaim what you lose, but the initial damage to your reputation or livelihood can still occur. Hopefully this information will help you to better understand what does whistleblower mean.