Some New York whistleblowers may pay a high price for the information they share even though there are legal protections in place. However, one attorney who works to protect whistleblowers says they tend to act from a place of conscience. Furthermore, the number of whistleblowers has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, and the public perception of them has become significantly more positive. Once seen as somewhat on the fringes and even as betraying their colleagues, whistleblowers today are more likely to be seen as public heroes.
A decision by a U.S. Court of Appeals has been called an important win for whistleblower protections. Employees in Connecticut and New York are protected from retaliation by employers for reporting some types of activity or conditions. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rendered its opinion in Frost v. BNSF Railway Co., rejecting efforts by employers to establish a stricter burden on whistleblowers. The employers in the case attempted to advance a defense based on the honest belief of employers. The court disagreed.
Whistleblowers in Connecticut are sometimes rewarded if the government is able to recover funds lost to fraud. One way this is done is with what's referred to as a qui tam lawsuit, which is brought under the False Claims Act. Cases of this nature can be an effective way for the government stop various types of fraud. The individual who initiated the action receives a portion of damages, penalties, and awards that come from the government's litigation efforts.
Representatives of businesses and workers in the trucking and railway industries have said that increased awareness of whistleblower rules could improve the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulatory efforts. With the amount of influence the industries have in New York and around the country, improved awareness could have a major impact. The specific issue is OSHA's plan to bolster its program for whistleblower protection. The agency held a session on June 12 at the headquarters of the Department of Labor, during which representatives set forth their cases.