Recent events have brought to light the critical role of a whistleblower. This is an employee or company insider who reveals illegal, unsafe or unfair practices within the government or a company.
A whistleblower’s information may prove lifesaving. The insight may bring down a corrupt business or help effect real change. However, there is a lot of fear of retribution in the face of this type of action, and as such, employees may hesitate to report egregious behavior. It may help to understand some of the protection a whistleblower receives under the law.
Qualifying as a whistleblower
When an employee reports wrongdoing, the authorities determine if he or she qualifies as a whistleblower. Once investigators find the information valid, the provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and its subsequent revisions apply. A key element in these laws prevents the company from taking legal action against a whistleblower for things such as slander or libel.
The biggest obstacle facing those who want to report unsavory activity is the fear of retaliation. This fear is credible, especially if the activity has the potential to lead to jail time. By law, a whistleblower may remain anonymous for much of the investigation. This is beneficial in keeping the reporting party safe from threats and allowing further insight into the company. Those in charge may not terminate a whistleblower if they discover his or her identity at any point. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission bars a company from taking action including:
- Scoring an employee too low on a job review
- Increasing the level of supervision
- Transferring an employee to a lower position
- Engaging in gossip and rumors about the employee
Revealing the truth about what goes on behind closed doors at a company takes courage. Understanding the protective measures to prevent retaliation may help encourage more employees to step forward.