whistle-blowing, exposure of fraud and abuse by an employee. The federal law that legitimated the concept of the whistle-blower, the False Claims Act (1863, revised 1986), was created to combat fraud by suppliers to the federal government during the Civil War. Under the act, whistle-blowers can receive a percentage of the money recovered or damages won by the government in fraud cases they expose. The act also protects whistle-blowers from wrongful dismissal, allowing for reinstatement with seniority, double back pay, interest on back pay, compensation for discriminatory treatment, and reasonable legal fees. Federal legislation in 1978 barred reprisals against those who exposed government corruption. Harassment and dismissal of and the revelation of widespread waste and fraud in defense contracting led Congress to strengthen the position of whistle-blowers in 1989. Many states also have employment laws that deal with discriminatory treatment of whistle-blowers.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.