The term "whistleblower" may or may not be familiar to Rhode Island residents. In a legal context, a whistleblower is someone who has reported some form of wrongdoing, usually by an employer. As might be expected, most organizations or agencies do not react well to having their "dirty laundry" exposed to examination, either by the pubic or regulatory authorities. Because of this, the federal government, as well as many states, have enacted laws that are meant to protect these whistleblowers.
Originally, most whistleblower protection laws were aimed at encouraging people to come forward when they were aware of problems within governmental agencies, or with governmental contractors that were costing the public money. The idea was that people would be more likely to report overcharging of government entities or other financial improprieties if they were not worried about having their careers destroyed in the process. Later, many states, including Rhode Island, enacted laws that were meant to protect workers, even in some private sector jobs, from retaliation for complaining about safety hazards, sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination. But, why do these individuals require protection?