Whistleblowing occurs when an internal member of an organization reveals misconduct from within to other members of the company or to the public. The misconduct accused by the whistleblower can be anything from violations of laws, health and safety violations, or fraud.
Whistleblowing is the result of a company making decisions for whatever reason that are either illegal or unethical and that differ directly from the ethical standards set by the company. The decisions affects the employee enough to motivate him to make complaints internally or externally.
Internal whistleblowing programs can help organizations resolve violations and problems quicker, minimize public scrutiny and damage, and increase trust levels with employees.
The term whistleblower was first used in England to describe when citizens would blow whistles to notify both police and the general public that a crime had been committed and to be aware of danger.
To be considered a whistleblower by the United States federal statutes, the employee needs to have evidence of misconduct and testify in a legal proceeding. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1997 protects the whistleblower from legal retaliation from the company.
Even though whistleblowers are protected under United States law, there have been some cases where punishment--including termination, suspension or wage garnishment--was handed out for whistleblowing.