If you observe your employer engaging in certain illegal activities, you might be a protected whistleblower if you object to, refuse to participate in, or report the activities. In most cases, reporting illegal activities by fellow employees or supervisors against the company, like embezzlement or theft, won’t be protected. I won’t attempt to make an exhaustive list of every whistleblower statute, but almost all states have some. As a few examples, you’ll be protected if you report the following.
Discrimination: if you report discrimination based on race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, genetic information, pregnancy, or color to HR, your supervisor, or EEOC.
Safety violations: complaining to OSHA, seeking an OSHA inspection, participating in an OSHA inspection, and participating or testifying in any proceeding related to an OSHA inspection.
Pollution: reporting pollution under various anti-pollution acts, or participating in or testifying in pollution investigations/proceedings.
Securities fraud/shareholder fraud: providing information or participating in an investigation with the Securities Exchange Commission.
a. Be careful if you’re reporting a coworker or boss ripping off the company, because you’re probably not a whistleblower. You can be fired if the company doesn’t like what you have to say. I’ve even seen employees accused of not reporting this type of behavior quickly enough.
b. If you think something illegal is happening, look up the laws that apply and make sure you’re going to be protected before you report it.
c. Sometimes to be protected you have to report the illegal activity to a government agency. Make sure you report it correctly so you’re covered.