When an employee learns that their employer or the higher-ups in the company have intentionally broken the law and violated regulations, they are encouraged to come forth and tell the government of the wrongdoing. By speaking up, an employee helps keep businesses honest and fair, effectively protecting consumers, partners, and so on from financial harm or other damages. Additionally, knowing of a violation but doing nothing can make the employee guilty by association.
But whistleblowers have been running into some serious conflicts from their employers lately, especially when the violation includes a company trade secret. Employers have threatened countersuits on the grounds of nondisclosure agreements and protecting their intellectual property. With the fear of heavy punishment, including termination and restitution fines, if they lose the countersuit, whistleblowers have been staying uncharacteristically quiet.
To counteract these countersuits, President Obama has recent signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) into law. This legislation extends and reinforces whistleblower protections when they disclose trade secrets to government agencies as part of their case. Outlining clear procedures potential whistleblowers must follow, the DTSA is being heralded as a much-needed legislative fix to a growing problem. It even includes a clause that requires employers to notify employees of their new protections established in the DTSA, allowing them to speak up on issues they had been holding in nervous reserves.
The next step and improvement to the law may be create an incremental whistleblowing procedure, one that allows an employer to bring a concern to the government’s attention and not necessarily an outright accusation. For more information about the DTSA and how it may protect you in an upcoming whistleblower lawsuit, contact Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP. Our New York employment lawyers can go over your rights during an initial consultation if you believe you have been unfairly penalized by an employer for being a whistleblower.