Should I Hire a Whistleblower Lawyer Before I Disclose?
It’s a good idea to work with a lawyer before disclosing information about an employer or the government. Whistleblowers face serious potential consequences. Retaliation for disclosure is generally illegal, but if you blow the whistle on a company without legal advice, you may make mistakes that forfeit those protections.
Talk to a lawyer first so that you understand your rights, the laws that apply, and the correct way to disclose and be protected. They can also make sure you have enough evidence to make a disclosure that stands up to scrutiny.
When Do I Need a Whistleblower Lawyer after a Disclosure?
If you have already disclosed information about illegal activities, you may need a lawyer to help protect your interests. Several laws protect whistleblowers. For instance, many federal environmental laws allow anyone to report on a company violating the laws and harming the environment and public health without fear of getting fired or harassed.
Talk to a lawyer after you have acted as a whistleblower if you have experienced any type of retaliation as a result:
- Losing your job
- Taking a pay cut or a demotion
- Being harassed or threatened at work
- Being denied a promotion or pay rise for which you qualify
How Can a Whistleblower Lawyer Help Me?
Even with laws in place to protect them, whistleblowers are vulnerable. There is a lot at stake, and it’s best to have an experienced lawyer on your side to advocate for your rights.
Here’s what a whistleblower lawyer can offer to help you as you proceed with or face the repercussions of disclosing:
- Provide expertise
This area of the law can be very confusing. There are multiple federal laws, state laws, and government agencies that deal with whistleblower protections. A whistleblower lawyer can explain which applies to you and what it all means.
- Offer resources
Whistleblower cases, especially big ones, require a lot of resources and government connections. A lawyer specializing in whistleblower laws will have a network of experts and the resources to investigate and prove your allegations to protect you.
- File a government claim
You may need to file a claim or complaint with a government agency, for instance, to report wrongful termination. Your lawyer can tell you where you need to file and how.
- File a qui tam lawsuit
The federal False Claims Act allows you to file a lawsuit to inform the government of financial losses due to fraud and to claim your reward. Qui tam allows you to get between 15% and 30% of the money the government recovers based on your information, but you need a lawyer to star the suit.
- Work with the government
Many whistleblower cases involve working with a government agency. They may or may not decide to take your case seriously. An experienced lawyer knows to work with officials and persuade them to intervene.
- Recover damages
If you experienced retaliation from disclosing information, it probably cost you money in lost wages and other expenses. A lawyer knows how to calculate what you are owed, including non-economic damages if you suffered harassment or abuse.
How to Find a Lawyer
Whistleblower cases can be very complicated. Never settle for a lawyer or firm without whistleblower law as an area of specialty. It would help if you had someone with experience and expertise in whistleblower laws and lawsuits to get the best results.
You can find a lawyer by getting a referral from someone who has been a whistleblower or by searching for firms specializing in whistleblower cases. Also, try contacting organizations that support and advocate for whistleblowers. For instance, the National Whistleblower Center can refer you to a lawyer trained in helping whistleblowers.
Regardless of how you find a whistleblower lawyer, the attorney or firm you hire should have certain characteristics:
- Proven experience working with whistleblowers
- Positive outcomes for whistleblowers
- Experience working with government agencies
- Adequate resources to investigate your case
- Contingency fee payment plans
Working with Your Whistleblower Lawyer
The right lawyer will bring all their expertise and resources to bear on a good outcome for your case, but they also need your cooperation. Here are some things you can do to work well with your lawyer and help them advocate for you:
- Let your lawyer know if you would like to remain anonymous throughout the process. It is not always possible, but they will need to know if that is your goal.
- Provide all documentation you have related to the incident or illegal activities.
- Provide documentation of communications you have had with co-workers or your boss related to your disclosure.
- Get records of your position, income, performance evaluations, and any changes to these after you made a disclosure. Dates on these documents are essential.
- Provide any information about co-workers who you think may be sympathetic or also willing to disclose.
A whistleblower lawyer is an essential ally before, during, and after you make an important disclosure about illegal activities. They will help you understand your rights, give you options and advice for how to proceed, and do what it takes to protect you and get monetary awards or damages.