A whistleblower statute is a law passed by a government entity to protect, and sometimes compensate, a person who “blows the whistle” on various types of wrongdoing, particularly when that wrongdoing detrimentally impacts the government or a defined public interest. This type of law has a long history of implementation at the national level all over the world and, in more recent years, local governments have adopted their own versions to protect public and private employees from retaliation. A whistleblower statute can be distinguished in three ways: by type of jurisdiction, type of relief provided, and type of action at issue.
There are two types of jurisdiction for a whistleblower statute: national and local. An example of a national whistleblower statute is the U.S. False Claims Act. Adopted by the federal government in 1863, the law provides protection and compensation to whistleblowers who provide notice of an attempt by a business to defraud the government. In comparison, all 50 U.S. states have adopted their own versions of a whistleblower statute to protect public and private employees against retaliation.
A whistleblower statute tends to differ in effect, depending on its jurisdiction. National statutes are typically designed to encourage a whistleblower to come forward and, as an incentive, to provide compensation. The average whistleblower reward under the U.S. False Claims Act, for example, was $1 million in 2010. National governments rarely have the resources to identify all instances of fraud against its interests, so the government relies on citizens to police their colleagues and employers and to make the proper authorities aware of noticed wrongdoing.
A local whistleblower statute is ordinarily designed to protect the citizen against retaliation in employment and rarely provides compensation as an incentive. Local laws tend to restore to the whistleblower any privilege lost as a result of his disclosure. They also typically make provisions for a private cause of action so the citizen can sue to recover damages suffered as a result of his disclosure.
In addition to the differences in the type of jurisdiction and the type of relief afforded, a whistleblower statute can be distinguished by the underlying action at issue. This sort of law has been applied in a wide variety of circumstances all over the world, but there are six general types of wrongdoing that a whistleblower statute is usually designed to offset. They are fraud, environmental hazards, discrimination, abuse, public safety, and employment.