Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Whistleblower Definition:

An employee who reports a supervisor or an employer's legal violations or wrongdoings.

In Rowland v Franklin Career Services, Justice Vratil of the United States District Court (Kansas) described a whistleblower as an employee who reports:

"... to company management or law enforcement serious legal violations by co-workers or the employer."

o encourage honest corporate governance in the private and the public sector, many jurisdictions have whistleblower protection statutes. For example, in Henry v City of Detroit, the Court of Appeals of Michigan describes the statutory scheme in that state as follows:

"To establish a prima facie violation of the Whistleblower's Protection Act (WPA), a plaintiff must show (1) that the plaintiff was engaged in a protected activity as defined by the WPA, (2) that the plaintiff was discharged, and (3) a causal connection existed between the protected activity and the discharge. The plain language of the statute provides protection for two types of whistleblowers: (1) those who report, or are about to report, violations of law, regulation, or rule to a public body, and (2) those who are requested by a public body to participate in an investigation held by that public body or in a court action."

Another development in the law has contributed to whistleblower protection and that is the extraordinary relief a court may give a dismissed employee where such dismissal has been retaliation for his or her whistleblowing. For example, consider these further words of Justice Vratil:

"At-will employment is the general rule in Kansas. Kansas courts, however, have recognized public policy exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine. One such exception is commonly referred to as the whistleblower exception. This exception provides a cause of action for retaliatory discharge where an employee is terminated for reporting to company management or law enforcement serious legal violations by co-workers or the employer. To establish a prima facie whistleblower case, the plaintiff must show by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) a reasonable person would have concluded that co-worker or company activities violated rules pertaining to public health, safety and general welfare; (2) defendants had knowledge of plaintiff's reporting of such a violation before terminating him; and (3) defendants terminated plaintiff for making the report. Plaintiff must have made the report in good faith, rather than out of a corrupt motive, such as malice, spite, jealousy or personal gain, and the infraction must have been reported to either company management or law enforcement officials."

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