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How can workplace whistleblowers protect themselves?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2024 | Whistleblower Law |

People don’t take jobs with the intention of becoming whistleblowers. Whistleblowing is typically the result of an employee discovering something unanticipated while working for a company. When training, a supervisor informs a new employee of company practices that clearly violate state or federal statutes or the worker otherwise uncovers unethical and inappropriate company conduct. Once a worker knows about illegal activity at an organization, they have an ethical and potentially even a legal obligation to do something with that knowledge.

Notifying people within an organization or involving regulatory authorities can both be ways to resolve the inappropriate conduct occurring at a business. How can someone who decides to act as a whistleblower protect themselves from the potential consequences of their choice to do the right thing?

Documenting the infractions carefully

There are both federal and California state laws that extend certain protections to those who act as whistleblowers. Of course, to make use of those protections, an employee has to prove that they noticed illegal or unsafe conduct at a company and took appropriate action. The more proof someone has of unsafe or inappropriate workplace activity, the easier it becomes to affirm that they have reason to act as a whistleblower.

Keeping records of company communications

Whistleblowing often begins with an attempt to resolve an issue internally followed by reporting to external authorities. It is therefore crucial to establish proof that someone has communicated with the company about an issue. Workers also need to maintain records of their reports to regulatory agencies or other authorities.

Recognizing retaliation when it occurs

Companies typically do not come right out and announce to a worker their intent to punish them for reporting misconduct. Instead, they demote or fire the worker after they act as a whistleblower using a different, likely fabricated or exaggerated reason for those punitive actions. Whether a worker starts losing out on projects and promotions or the company suddenly starts taking issue with their job performance by no significant changes, a worker needs to be able to recognize retaliation to hold an employer accountable for engaging in this type of misconduct.

Whistleblowers who can prove that a company mistreated them for their actions can potentially take legal action against the organization. Being proactive about documentation can help someone who serves as a whistleblower protect themselves from organizational misconduct.