A national report released in 2011 stated that nearly half of the labor force in the United States has spotted some sort of misconduct at work. Of course, reporting wrongdoing is a decision that is often juxtaposed with the possibility of employer retaliation and termination. And whilst not every aspect of whistleblowing will be positive, government agencies have been working to enact, revamp and reinforce statutes that allow individuals to play a bigger role, gain more rights, and receive larger rewards.
However, for many others, blowing the whistle is not a common item on their daily agenda. Therefore, first-time whistleblowers should be careful and methodical in how they proceed when fraud is discovered in the workplace.
Five Major “Don’ts” For Whistleblowers:
1. Don’t Be Hasty
Finding out that a company has been cooking the books can be a shock. An immediate impulse might be to tell a coworker, ignore the discovery out of fear, or find another job in order to sidestep the situation. However, ignoring wrongdoing does not make it go away and it definitely does not correct the issue. Persons should stay calm and try to formulate a plan.
2. Don’t Be Naïve
Many companies have hotlines and internal reporting structures that can help to bring unethical practices to the forefront. But depending on who the suspected perpetrator is, this can also be an escape route for the guilty party. There have been cases where employers, in an attempt to sweep their transgressions under the rug, have paid for the employee’s silence (which creates its own set of illegalities).
3. Don’t Break The Law
Evidence gathering is a crucial part of building a convincing case. Details and documents must be accurately logged and preserved to support the allegations made. They must also be legally acquired. The last thing anyone wants is for the investigation to shift to the heroic individual blowing the whistle or worse, for a hard-fought lawsuit to be dismissed.
4. Don’t Delay
Once you’ve confidently obtained all the facts, that wealth of information should not be wasted. Especially since there is statute of limitations for filing a claim. And in some instances, as with the False Claims Act, a first-to-file rule can hinder the would-be whistleblower from initiating legal action and being entitled to a financial reward.
5. Don’t Do It On Your Own
There are many factors and points of law to be considered in a whistleblower case—knowing the type of documentation required, identifying the exact violation, understanding how state regulations may have a bearing on protection rights and so on. Seeking out a competent and experienced attorney is perhaps the best move a person can make to protect their livelihood and their future.
According to the various law enforcement bodies, whistleblower programs have had major triumphs in the war against fraud, abusive practices and illicit activity thanks to the people who speak up about the wrongdoing taking place in private and government establishments. The simple truth is fraud has a greater impact on the average wage-earner than may be realized and thus, staying quiet is an approach that only benefits a corrupt society.
If a person observes illegal acts that warrant the attention of authorities, it should be reported in the proper way—keeping the above-listed don’ts for whistleblowers in mind and not hesitating to contact an attorney for sound, helpful advice.
If you’re aware of fraud in the workplace, contact Newman & Shapiro today!