Whistleblowers have federal protection from retaliation by their employers. The company that you work for cannot penalize you for calling attention to illegal actions or inappropriate behavior.
Understanding what circumstances might qualify you as a whistleblower can help ensure that you adequately protect yourself and your income when speaking up about something inappropriate at your job.
Your employer can’t punish you for asserting your rights
You shouldn’t have to deal with harassment or discrimination on the job because of your gender, age, religion, race or health condition. You have a right to report mistreatment and to expect pay and advancement opportunities to reflect your work and education, not your protected personal characteristics.
If your supervisor has begun harassing you or if you believe that certain policies violate your rights, informing management or human resources of your concerns should prompt them to take action to correct the issue, not to punish you for speaking up about the problem. They should investigate your claims and document what they find.
You shouldn’t face punishment over reporting criminal acts
Once you discover that the company that employs you or a specific co-worker is breaking the law, you have an obligation to speak up. After all, not reporting criminal activity might make you an accessory to the front or implicate you in a broader conspiracy.
Reporting criminal activity to management or even to the appropriate state or federal agencies for investigation gives you whistleblower status. Your employer should not fire, demote or otherwise punished you for reporting illegal activity by the company or its highest-ranking executives.
If despite these protections, you find yourself dealing with career consequences for speaking up, you can potentially take legal action against the company for its decision to retaliate against you.