Whistleblower (Whistle Blower)


The term whistleblower refers to an individual reporting to the public illegal activities or misconduct occurring in a private company or government agency.  There are approximately twenty federal laws that protect whistleblowers from various forms of adverse action or retaliation.


Also referred to as whistle blowers, a whistleblower is an individual that observes and reports illegal activity or misconduct to law enforcement officers, government agencies, public media, and company oversight departments.  The list below outlines some of the nearly two dozen federal laws that protect the rights of whistleblowers:

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)
  • Clean Air Act (CAA)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA)
  • Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)
  • Drug, and Cosmetic Act
  • Energy Reorganization Act (ERA)
  • FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
  • Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA)
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA)
  • International Safe Container Act (ISCA)
  • Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)
  • National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA)
  • Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  • Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA)
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
  • Seaman's Protection Act
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)
  • Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA)
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
  • Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21)

Generally, these laws protect the whistleblower from retaliation, meaning the employer is not permitted to take any "adverse action" against the individual such as:

  • Blacklisting
  • Demoting
  • Denying benefits
  • Denying overtime or promotion
  • Disciplining
  • Failing to hire or rehire
  • Firing or laying off
  • Intimidating / harassing
  • Making threats
  • Reassignments affecting prospects for promotion
  • Reducing pay or work hours

Individuals that feel an employer has taken adverse action against them are encouraged to report the incident to the Whistleblowers Protection Program managed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Related Terms

Americans with Disabilities ActEmployee Retirement Income Security Act, Equal Employment Opportunity, USERRA, Occupational Safety and Health Act