Whistleblower protections improved in 2015

Wisconsin professionals and citizens who are considering taking whistleblower action may be interested to learn of multiple developments in 2015 that marked important milestones in how the practice is becoming more acceptable. In November 2015, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission published a report through its Office of the Whistleblower revealing that the agency received almost 4,000 tips during the last fiscal year. This was an increase of 8 percent from the previous fiscal year.

Of the tips shared with the SEC, upwards of 2,800 originated as phone calls placed by members of the general public. Almost half of the people who received awards for tips had at some time been employed by the companies they were reporting, and the SEC paid millions of dollars to whistleblowers for their reports.

Notably, 2015 was also the first year in which a corporate director was deemed liable for retaliating against a whistleblower. In one case, a court determined that if a corporate official takes such retaliation in violation of the Dodd-Frank Act, they may be personally sued for their actions. The same court decided that such legal protections applied to those who blow the whistle internally as well as those who go to agencies like the SEC.

Although there are laws that seek to reward whistleblowers, taking action can still be a perilous proposition. People may be treated unfairly by their employers after they call them out for their misconduct, and this can result in the loss of jobs or professional blacklisting. Individuals who want to do the right thing and report improper behaviors may find it helpful to speak with an attorney in order to learn about their legal rights and how to protect themselves beforehand.

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