Your Protections Under the Georgia Whistleblower Act

Your Protections Under the Georgia Whistleblower ActWhistleblowers risk their personal and professional lives to provide information about fraud and other illegal activities. They are willing to come forward to report crimes or other violations that would otherwise go unnoticed and are invaluable in the detection of crime, fraud, and other legal violations and the enforcement of laws.

Whistleblowing is effective because employees often have access to a relatively large amount of information about the place in which they work. Little, if any, fraud or other violations can be committed without the knowledge and support of one or more of them. Although some might be complicit in the wrongdoing, most are not.

What is a whistleblower?

A whistleblower is an individual who exposes or reports information about illegal, unethical, or fraudulent activities occurring within an organization or government entity. Whistleblowers often have insider knowledge or access to sensitive information that allows them to uncover wrongdoing. Some well-known whistleblowers include:

  • Edward Snowden. In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former computer intelligence consultant, leaked top secret National Security Agency documents to The Guardian and the Washington Post. Snowden was charged with violating the Espionage Act, but before he was apprehended, he sought asylum in Moscow, where he continues to reside.
  • Frank Serpico. A New York City plainclothes detective in the 1960s and 1970s, Frank Serpico was the first police officer to testify openly about corruption in the NYPD. His contributions to a 1970 New York Times story on corruption within the department led to the formation of the Knapp Commission. The 1973 film Serpico, based on his story, featured Al Pacino in the title role.
  • Karen Silkwood. In the early 1970s, Karen Silkwood worked as a chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee nuclear plant near Crescent, Oklahoma. She discovered numerous safety issues at the plant and testified about her concerns to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1974. That same year, she died in a car accident under suspicious circumstances. The Kerr-McGee plant closed in 1975.

By bringing attention to misconduct that may otherwise go unnoticed or unaddressed, whistleblowers play a crucial role in promoting transparency, accountability, and integrity. They may disclose various types of wrongdoing, including financial fraud, corruption, safety violations, environmental violations, discrimination, and more.

How do whistleblowers disclose information?

Whistleblowers typically disclose information through formal channels within their organization, such as reporting to management, human resources, or internal compliance departments. In some cases, they may also report directly to external entities, such as government agencies, law enforcement, regulatory bodies, or the media.

Speaking out often results in risks and challenges for whistleblowers, including retaliation from employers, damage to their careers, social stigma, and legal threats. However, whistleblower protection laws, like the Georgia Whistleblower Act, exist to safeguard individuals who report misconduct from retaliation and provide legal remedies if retaliation occurs.

What is the Georgia Whistleblower Act?

The Georgia Whistleblower Act is a state law designed to protect public employees who report illegal, unethical, or fraudulent activities within their workplace. Enacted in 2010, the Georgia Whistleblower Act aims to encourage public employees to speak up about wrongdoing without fear of retaliation.

Some key provisions of the Georgia Whistleblower Act include:

  • Protected activities: Employees are protected under the Act when they disclose, object to, or refuse to participate in activities that they reasonably believe are illegal, unethical, or violate public policy.
  • Prohibition of retaliation: Employers are forbidden from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activities. Retaliation can come in many forms, including termination, demotion, harassment, or other adverse employment actions.
  • Legal remedies: Employees who experience retaliation in violation of the Act have the right to pursue legal remedies. This may include reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, and attorney fees.
  • Reporting procedures: The Act may outline specific reporting procedures that employees must follow to qualify for protection. This may include reporting the wrongdoing internally to management or a designated authority before escalating the matter externally.
  • Public policy exceptions: The Act may also provide exceptions for employees who disclose information to law enforcement agencies, regulatory bodies, or other public entities as part of their duties or obligations.

The Georgia Whistleblower Act aims to promote transparency, accountability, and integrity in the workplace by empowering public employees to report misconduct without fear of reprisal. It supports broader efforts at both the state and federal levels to protect whistleblowers and combat corruption.

Georgia has other whistleblower laws. These include the Georgia False Medicaid Claims Act and the Georgia Taxpayer Protection Act.

Federal whistleblower laws

The U.S. has enacted numerous whistleblower laws with key protections and incentives to encourage whistleblowers to come forward. Some of these laws include:

  • Dodd-Frank Act. Passed following the 2008-09 financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Act is a Wall Street reform law that created numerous whistleblower programs to promote financial stability, accountability, and transparency.
  • False Claims Act (FCA). The first and one of the strongest whistleblower laws in the U.S, the FCA allows any individual or non-governmental organization to file a federal lawsuit on behalf of the United States government.
  • IRS Whistleblower Law. Whistleblowers who want to expose tax fraud can potentially collect monetary rewards for successful sanctions made against those who commit tax fraud.
  • Lacey Act. One of the oldest and most powerful wildlife protection laws in the U.S., the Lacey Act was enacted in 1900 to address the overhunting of game birds. It has been amended several times to include more species, such as amphibians, reptiles, and fish and wildlife covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Many employees discover that their employers aren’t playing by the rules. At Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, our Atlanta whistleblower lawyers advise Georgia employees about their rights when they decide that employer misconduct should be disclosed and experience retaliation from their employer as a result.

The whistleblower attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, have the experience and resources to review the strength of your claim, the evidence you need to support your claim, advise you regarding when you should file your claim, and other disclosure issues. If you are considering disclosing fraud or wrongdoing on the part of your employer, we want to help. Call or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment today.