Whistleblowing can happen everywhere—in politics, sports, entertainment, and even in businesses or workplaces—which is a good first step in putting a stop to undesirable, dangerous, or harmful behavior within communities or organizations.
Blowing the whistle on someone is about making things right, but it’s not as easy as it seems. If you know that some shady things are happening in your company, being a decent person means not looking the other way. However, a part of you is also probably worried about facing the consequences or retaliation from your employer, manager, or whoever is involved, if you do speak out.
This is where the whistleblower law comes in, which gives you protection from workplace retaliation. But how does the whistleblower protection act work? This infographic describes the framework and other guidelines that you have to follow to legally qualify as a whistleblower and get protection from the law.
What Is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing comes in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps a city mayor receives money from a contractor for a large construction project, but a bank employee discovers the bribery and decides to go public about it. Or, maybe a company that condones a toxic work culture gets exposed by employees coming forward about the misdeeds.
In most cases, whistleblowing involves unprofessional or unlawful conduct of employers, managers, or company staff. Although, the wrongdoing may also be committed by a customer, business supplier, or service provider.
Regardless as to who is doing the misconduct, blowing the whistle means someone making a disclosure in the interest of the common good rather than making a complaint about one’s personal motives.
Legal Protection for Workplace Whistleblowers
Let’s say you’re a witness to shady activities in your company, and you could not, in good conscience, let things slide, so you speak out about it. As a workplace whistleblower, you can be protected by law if you disclose alleged malpractices in your company, including but not limited to:
- Criminal offenses
Criminal offenses are acts that are considered unlawful because they harm people or their property, communities, and the state. Committing this offense is also considered a violation of the moral standards of society. Crimes relating to sexual violence, theft, and drugs are some examples of criminal acts.
- Financial irregularities
Financial irregularities are fraudulent activities that people engage in to deliberately gain money at the expense of the company or any third party involved in the business. These may include the misuse of funds or the billing for goods or services that were not delivered.
- Health and safety hazards
A workplace needs to be as safe as possible, and you have the right to report if there are safety violations that can potentially cause accidents. For example, your company may be producing faulty windshields or gas tanks, which are safety hazards for car owners and other motorists.
Workplace safety may also apply to behavior, so even bullying can be perceived as unsafe or hazardous to the well-being of vulnerable employees.
- Abuse of power
Abuse of power typically involves a superior misusing his/her authority against lower-ranking employees. Requesting staff to do personal errands, forcing an employee to distort facts, and impeding access to essential information or resources are abusive acts that can lead to low employee morale or productivity, thus negatively affecting the company and its workforce.
- Environmental risks
Although environmental risks represent a small percentage of whistleblowing complaints, they’re just as important to the public interest, with their potential to affect national and international borders. Environmental-related malpractices in the workplace may relate to improper waste management and dumping of hazardous chemicals and harming of protected areas or species.
Whistleblower protection guarantees that you don’t lose your job or that you don’t become the subject of retaliation for disclosing what you have uncovered and made public. Although it is illegal for a company or its representatives to punish or get back at a whistleblower, you can be the target of a smear campaign for exposing malpractice in your organization.
According to the United States Department of Labor, “retaliation occurs when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, or administrator) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity.”
These adverse actions may come in the form of demotion, denial of benefits or opportunities for promotion, intimidation or threats, reduction in work hours and pay, and so on.
However, it can be difficult to prove that there’s retaliation at play in the workplace. A whistleblowing lawyer can help you establish if your employer’s action is indeed retaliatory.
How to Get Legal Protection as a Whistleblower
Here are the necessary steps to take to help you qualify for the whistleblower protection act:
Step 1: Gathering of evidence
Without documentary evidence, your whistleblowing complaint won’t hold water. The types of supporting evidence that you should be collecting to have a case include emails, official company records or reports, receipts, and the like. Ideally, your evidence should include the date and time stamps since there are time limits for filing a complaint.
Step 2: Presenting the evidence
When filing a complaint, you’ll need to submit your claim to the court and the appropriate government agency. Your Disclosure Statement should detail the alleged misconduct, which will be used by the agency to determine if a case has enough merit to proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Going through the investigation
The court will investigate without revealing your identity or the inquiry itself to your employer or any other offending party. You may be invited for interviews, along with those who may have witnessed or have knowledge about the wrongdoing.
Step 4: Testifying at trial
Once the court determines that you have a valid case against the defendant, both of you may be requested to show up in trial proceedings.
Your lawyer will be guiding you every step of the way, so you can navigate through the whole process of filing a whistleblowing complaint. Needless to say, the goal is to set things right and give you full protection under the law.
Laws are meant to protect your rights, including your right to blow the whistle on misdeeds that are being committed in your company. Being a whistleblower is a moral obligation that you need to take seriously for the good of everyone, including yourself, your colleagues, and all other stakeholders.
If you need help with legal matters regarding whistleblowing, let us know. Connect with us at Shegerian and Associates.
$9.1 MILLION Verdict in Whistleblower Case
|After 23 1/2 years of service, a machine operator was terminated after she expressed concern to her employer about the safety of the machines. The employer refused to stop or even consider stopping the machines, and the client was treated as an outsider in retaliation for voicing her concerns. She was ultimately terminated.|