Whistleblowing is almost always negatively associated with bad press, company collapse, and executive punishment in a public setting. For a company facing allegations of misconduct, one of the most dangerous moves it can take is impulsive retaliation against the whistleblower. While such actions can be seen as unprofessional and rash, they can be damaging and deadly to a company’s reputation, and from a legal standpoint, can land the company in a lot of serious trouble. If your business is faced with allegations stemming from a whistleblower’s claims, it is time to familiarize yourself with why retaliation is so dangerous. Additionally, find out what professional steps can be taken to protect your business and avoid biased or untrue claims.
Whistleblower Protection Laws
A variety of laws have been enforced to protect individuals who disclose information about the misconduct of the company they work for.
- Sarbanes-Oxley: This law was enacted in 2002 following a series of major scandals involving financial fraud in large corporations, such as Enron. Significant measures were included to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and wrongful discharge associated with disclosing company misconduct.
- Dodd-Frank Act: This law was created in 2010 to incentivize employees to disclose information regarding violations they may have discovered in the company operations of the businesses they work for. Additionally, protective measures were included to keep whistleblowers safe from actions of angry employers.
- False Claims Act: Similar to the Dodd-Frank Act, the False Claims Act rewards individuals who provide information regarding company violations. Clauses detailing protective measures are also included in this relatively new federal law.
Because of these and a myriad of other laws protecting whistleblowers, perhaps the worst thing any company can do when in hot water is to retaliate against the persons responsible for disclosing secrets. Doing so is asking for legal trouble, and it could potentially destroy the company entirely and leave a tarnished and unprofessional image streaking into the future.
What You Can Do to Avoid Claims
Fortunately, there are some simple yet effective steps you can take to protect your company against whistleblower claims, especially those that are excessive, extreme, untrue, or biased.
- Enact a complaint law: One of the most fundamental steps you can take is to create and enact a complaint law from the start of company operations. Such a policy will give whistleblowers a confidential place to express concerns, complaints, and requests. This enables you to take action in a more private setting before potentially damaging information is made public. Additionally, a complaint law will give your employees the confidence of full disclosure in a protected environment and will hopefully encourage honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior.
- Thoroughly investigate whistleblower claims: Anytime a complaint or claim is surfaced, often through the complaint law you have enforced, take immediate action. Thoroughly investigate every claim you encounter and do so in a professional manner. Involve the concerned employee(s) in the process and let them know their input is needed and appreciated. Never undermine or disregard any claim until it has been investigated and evidence proves that no action is necessary.
- Don’t retaliate: Should a whistleblower make public a claim against your company, do not retaliate. Maintain a professional and collected demeanor and be careful about the information you disclose to the press. Your wise decision to keep calm and quiet could potentially be what saves your image, reputation, and company as a whole.
- Use wise disciplinary measures: If you feel that a whistleblower should be subject to other disciplinary measures, don’t pursue action. Doing so could send a dangerous message and only make your company appear like it is hiding something and trying to quiet the individual who made the claim.
Dealing with whistleblowers is a tricky business, especially when the allegations against your company are unfounded or untrue. Your decision to avoid retaliation and put protective measures in place from the start can help you maintain professionalism, reputation, and integrity.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.