Maybe you just started your new job, and the supervisor training you explains how everyone in the department handles their job responsibilities. Unfortunately, the process that they recommend to you technically violates the law. Perhaps you have been with the company for some time and have only recently started to identify warning signs of illegal activity in your own department or in another section of the company.
Most professionals will feel incredibly nervous when they realize that their employer has broken the law. They worry that they could face retaliation and punishment if they draw attention to the issue. However, whistleblowers have protection under numerous federal statutes.
You should be able to report illegal activity or dangerous workplace practices without fearing reprisal.
What makes you a whistleblower?
When you witness or refuse to participate in illegal activity at your company, you are in a position to become a whistleblower. Sometimes, the whistleblowing process is largely internal. An employee will notify someone in human resources or management about the issue to initiate an internal investigation.
Other times, workers realize that the executives at the company must know, and therefore they involve regulatory agencies. When you report illegal conduct within the company or to outside authorities, you become a whistleblower.
What protects you as a whistleblower?
Technically, it is illegal for businesses to punish those who act as whistleblowers. You should not lose your job, face a demotion or suffer any other career consequences for doing the right thing. However, many companies will resent those who call attention to misconduct.
After all, changing how the company operates to better comply with regulations might reduce the company’s profit margins. Additionally, in some cases, misconduct might lead to key players at the company needing to resign because of their behavior.
The best way to protect yourself from the potential of illegal retaliation is to carefully document the illegal activity, your communication with your employer and your job experience after making your report. That way, you can show a change in how the company treats you or prove the very suspect timing of the business’s negative decisions about your employment.
Many people contemplating becoming a whistleblower or worried that they are about to suffer retaliation after speaking up will benefit from partnering with an employment law attorney. Asserting your rights as a whistleblower will require courage and proper support but can lead to positive changes for you and the organization that employs you.