If you are considering becoming a whistleblower, you will want to know exactly what this involves
Reporting an employer for misconduct is a courageous step. If you are considering becoming a whistleblower, you will want to know exactly what this involves. Whether you are on the fence or wrapping your head around the procedures, here are ten tips to help you start.
1. Know your rights
Familiarize yourself with various laws that offer protection to whistleblowers, particularly if you wish to stay anonymous. Stephen M. Kohn, author of The New Whistleblower’s Handbook says, “There is no universal Whistleblower law, your right depends on the procedures set in over 50 countries”, your level of protection will be based on what you choose to disclose, to whom and how you choose to do it. Start by checking whether your lawsuit offers you protection from retaliation under several whistleblower statutes. Additionally, if your employer retaliates, remember that you have a deadline or statute of limitations by which you can file a complaint. The period can vary depending on various statues, industries, and areas.
2. Timing and context
We have established that the law is on your side. What is also important is understanding when to blow the whistle. Ensure your case is not motivated by personal grievances against your employer or third parties. Follow this up with swift action. Acting quickly and decisively increases the chance of stopping fraudulent activities or, wherever applicable, earn rewards from the government.
3. Use the correct reporting mechanisms
Every company should contain a confidential and safe whistleblowing policy in place. Read up on the codes of professional conduct to understand what the workplace reporting mechanisms are. Follow this procedure to the letter to avoid any future claims that the company was unaware of your concerns.
4. Obligations to report misconduct
In some circumstances, the rules laid out by your organization oblige you to report knowledge of wrongdoing. For instance, accountants, senior managers, or solicitors are obligated to raise concerns through designated channels that exist for certain kinds of illegal activities.
5. Document and keep records of everything
Put down everything in writing. After meetings, follow up on email or letters with a polite summary of what transpired. Additionally, ensure you document everything for yourself. Keep detailed notes of meetings and conversations – who said what, when, and to whom. Do not keep these notes on your work computer or emails since you might lose access to them.
6. Be careful about the words you use
Documentation is critical but so is how you choose to do it. Richard Clarke from Transparency Networks says, “the protection for whistleblowers is based on the fact that you’re sharing information about wrongdoing. Therefore, you need to phrase your words very carefully.” Ensure you are vigilant about the words and tonality in your official correspondences. Your communication should remain factual and objective at all times.
7. Do not investigate
Resist the urge to uncover additional information since it risks damaging your credibility and relationship with your employer. Report your concerns and leave the investigation to your employers or agencies concerned.
8. Hire a lawyer and use a regulator
Report your concerns to a regulator if your employer is fully aware of misconduct and plans to do nothing – or worse, abuses their power. In such a scenario, seek counsel from an attorney with expertise and experience handling whistleblower cases.
9. Confidentiality clauses
Legitimate whistleblowing claims supersede the need to adhere to non-disclosure agreements (NDA) with employers. Remember that confidentiality clauses cease to apply if you have a viable lawsuit.
10. Do not go public
Whistleblowing legislation protects people who use the correct procedures to report wrongdoing. While social media or the press are powerful enablers, do not go public with your claims. Doing so will absolve you of the right to receive the legal protection afforded to whistleblowers – think Edward Snowden!
The fundamentals of efficient whistleblowing lie in reporting for the right reasons and in the right way. Most things fall into place once you’ve ticked these two boxes, so stay on course and committed.
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