A whistleblower is a person working within an organization who reports misconduct. He or she may be a current or past employee, and the misconduct may be ongoing at the time of the report or may have taken place in the past. In most cases, the misconduct reported by the whistleblower violates a law and threatens the public in one way or another, though any form of misconduct may be reported.
There are two types of whistleblower: internal and external. An internal whistleblower reports the misconduct to another person working within the place of business, such as another employee or a superior. An external whistleblower, however, reports the misconduct to an outside agency, such as the media, a lawyer, law enforcement, or special protective agencies.
In many countries, the whistleblower is protected by law. The United Kingdom, for example, passed the Public Interest Disclosure Act in 1998. This act protects employees from being fired when reporting malpractice or other forms of misconduct. The United States also has laws in place to protect whistleblowers, though the specific protection depends on the state in which the report takes place as well as the type of misconduct reported.
Despite the protective measures in place to protect whistleblowers, it can be quite stressful to report the misconduct of an employer. Not only does the person feel concern about future employment, but he or she may also be ostracized by others who look unfavorably on person reporting the misconduct. In addition, it is possible for a person doing the reporting to face legal persecution if the employer takes action against him or her for being involved in the misconduct in the first place.
There have been many famous whistleblower cases in the United States. One of the most notable involved Enron, a corporation that caused millions of people to lose money in their financing scam. Another famous case is that of Joseph Darby, a military police officer who reported the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.