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  • Transparency Networks

The Unanswered Questions About Whistleblowing

It is no secret that figures of authority routinely abuse their power and wealth, all in the pursuit of shortcuts to gain profits. If you ever find yourself in a situation where an employer’s ethics continually verge into the grey, it becomes crucial to find legal mechanisms to address your concerns.

Whistleblowers are individuals who put the greater good above their own needs and speak up about injustice. Oddly enough, the popular perception of whistle-blowing tends to be negative. However, this is mostly due to a lack of understanding about whistleblowing and the extraordinary ways it benefits society. Law enforcement agencies have high regard and respect for whistleblowers whose testimonies have brought many criminals to justice.

What Is Whistle-blowing?

Whistle-blowing is a colloquial term referring to the act of disclosing wrongdoing in an organization. A person “blows the whistle” when they reveal unethical practices by public or private institutions. Whistle-blowing concerns usually relate to unscrupulous behavior of management and staff but they can also cover the actions of a third party.

What Is the Difference Between Making a Complaint and Blowing the Whistle?

An individual is not a whistleblower if the report deals with a personal grievance. A complaint or personal grievance relates to an individual personally. Personal grievances could comprise cases of harassment, discrimination, unlawful termination, or any other breaches in contracts. However, in exceptional situations when the personal grievance is in the realm of public interest, individuals can report their cases through channels at their respective workplaces.

In comparison, whistleblowers disclose information that is in the public interest. These may include cases of financial fraud or mismanagement, a risk to public health and safety, potential or existing damages to the environment, bribery, or failure to comply with legal obligations or regulatory requirements.

How Do Disclosures Happen?

Depending on its nature, disclosures are usually made to employers, a responsible second-party, or a person authorized by law to hear a whistle-blowing case. In some cases, protected disclosures are not limited to these three particular types.

Whistleblower Laws and Rights

Whistleblower rights are contextual to procedures laid out in various state and federal laws. The key lies in finding one that protects you the best and following its guidelines to the letter. Legal protection has a direct correlation to the information you disclose - as well as to whom and how.

While going through whistleblower laws, remember that the most effective ones usually contain two key components: protection against on-the-job retaliation and the provision to earn monetary rewards if the disclosure leads to a successful conviction.

Reward laws provide people incentives for being the first to file a claim. All whistleblower laws, therefore, contain statutes of limitation. Missing a deadline could mean all the difference between successful enforcement and automatically losing the case.

While this seems like a no-brainer, whistleblowers must ensure they don’t break the law while disclosing confidential information. There have been far too many precedents when whistleblowers have lost cases or convicted of crimes for violating the law. Disclosing one wrongdoing by committing another would be the strangest contradiction of sorts.

The practice of whistle-blowing is an integral part of the democratic landscape. Whistleblowers have been at the heart of some of the most landmark prosecutions since 1987, obtaining over $5 billion in rewards.

Cases have seen a considerable rise in the 21st Century because of powerful new laws and growing recognition of whistleblowers and their contributions. Anyone considering filing a successful claim must regularly remain updated on regulations and know their rights.


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