Whistleblowers, A Protected Class?

Employees are reluctant to report instances of unethical practices due to the fear of retaliation from their employer. Some individuals may not want to be labeled as a whistleblower. A whistleblower is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in a company. The alleged misconduct may be classified in many ways such as, a violation of a rule of law or regulation, a direct threat to the interest of the public such as fraud, health and safety violations, and corruption. Whistleblowing is becoming more frequent in the world. Employees that do decide to blow the whistle ponder many things before they make their decision. They may fear loss of their job, or any form of retaliation from their employer. It can be said that whistleblowers have a higher form of ethics.

Whistleblowers see the wrong and unethical practices that are occurring at their place of employment. They may feel a sense of guilt if they do not report what is occurring. Often times, the unethical practice that is occurring at the job may be potentially harmful to someone else. If there are unsafe practices occurring at a meat packing plant, or any industry that serves food to the public, shouldn’t the public be made aware of it? Or other instances at companies may involve harm to animals or harm to the environment. If left untold, that could create a huge problem for society.

Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblowers are exposing the truth about what is really occurring in some industries. They are essentially “saving” the public from harm. The Department of Labor has deemed that whistleblowers are a protected class. They are risking their careers and possibly their livelihood to expose the wrong doing of a company. The wrong doing does not just occur at manufacturing facilities, unethical practices are increasing in corporate America.   The Whistleblower Protection for Employees of Publicly Traded companies states that  “No company with a class of securities registered under section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 781), or that is required to file reports under section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 780(d)), or any officer, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or agent of such company, may discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of any lawful act done by the employee”. There are numerous laws that protect the individual that came forth exposing the corruption.

This statute protects the rights of the whistleblower against possible retaliation. Having that added protection should encourage the whistleblower to come forward without any troubling consequences by their employer. This protection is needed in order for the government and any other agency to learn about the wrong doings or unethical practices of some companies that they would have otherwise not been made aware of.

Who Is Covered?

Any person who has the knowledge of alleged wrong doing can file a complaint. The Whistle Blowers Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of over 22 statutes protecting employees who speak out. “Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employees may file complaints with OSHA if they believe that they have experienced discrimination or retaliation for exercising any right afforded by the OSH act, such as complaining to the employer union, OSHA, or any other government agency about workplace safety or health hazards; or for participating in OSHA inspection conferences, hearings, or other OSHA-related activities.” This act prohibits employers form retaliating against their employees for whistleblowing. It is the right of the employee to file a complaint with OSHA that may lead to an investigation of the employer. By exercising their rights, the whistleblower could prevent future harm or corrupt practices by an organization.

Retaliation can come in many different forms. Below is a list of possible methods of black balling or ousting of the whistleblower:

  • Being terminated from employment
  • Reduction in wages
  • A demotion
  • Denial of overtime or promotion
  • Unwarranted acts of discipline
  • Intimidation
  • Threats
  • Black listing

The employee protection provisions listed above forbid covered employers from terminating or in any way discriminating against any employee because the employee engaged in certain activities protected by law. The employer will face legal actions if they are found in violation of this law.

The whistleblower investigation manual can be a guide to learn more about the investigation process.

How to file a complaint can be found at https://www.osha.gov

References

http://www.whistleblowers.gov/

http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-whistleblower

https://www.osha.gov

http://www.whistleblowers.gov/acts/ccfa.html

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