According to the Pennsylvania Statutes, a whistleblower is an employee who personally witnesses or has proof that his or her employer is engaged in waste or wrongdoing, and who reports these acts to his or her superior or another appropriate authority. The wrongdoing must involve a violation of existing federal or state statutes, regulations, or codes of conduct that are focused on protecting the interest of the public or employer.
Whistleblowers are granted special protections by both Federal and Pennsylvania law. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that these protections largely depend on the whistleblower’s employment industry. For example, people within the transportation industry and whose jobs affect security and safety for commercial motor vehicles are protected against employer retaliation for disclosing federal or state regulation violations. Additionally, those who report corporate fraud, such as bank and securities fraud or violations of the SEC rules and regulations, have unique protection against negative reactions from their employers as well.
Many of the protections that may be offered in these and other industries include a prohibition from blacklisting, denying earned promotions or overtime, intimidation and threats, or reassignment to an unfavorable or less desirable position. Employers may also be prohibited from reducing pay or hours, blacklisting, disciplining, or suspending the whistleblower.
Ultimately, these laws are designed to protect people within certain industries in which employers may be tempted to place profits above safety or adherence to the law. By ensuring that employers may be prohibited from taking unfavorable employment actions against whistleblowers, these laws encourage people to come forward when they see illegal or questionable activity at work. This then allows the authorities to deliver appropriate financial and criminal penalties upon the companies that choose to break the law.