- Transparency Networks
What Needs to Be Considered Before Blowing the Whistle
Whether in public or private institutions, whistleblowers play a vital role in disclosing crimes related to fraud, security, malpractice, or willful negligence. As individuals with a moral compass, their efforts deserve more recognition but are often met with mistrust instead.
Systems of power protect wrongdoers while vilifying people who speak up against wrong doing. For this reason, many hesitate to come forward since cases of whistleblowers facing retaliation are sadly too common.
Due to efforts by concerned groups and individuals across the world, whistleblowing laws today are comprehensive and ensure the safety and rights of individuals who speak truth to power. The assurance of the law is a great thing. However, it is also imperative that whistleblowers know additional facts and procedures. Here is a list of factors to consider if you are thinking of reporting an employer or organization for wrong-doing.
The Validity and Scope of a Case
Ensure you have a valid case. Familiarize yourself with whistleblowing laws and their purview. Whistleblowers report cases that work against the public interest, namely, cover-ups, criminal offenses, regulatory breaches, and health and environmental safety breaches. If your case involves one or more of these things, the law will protect you. Besides reports in the present day, you can report other cases at any time, irrespective of when events took place or are likely to in the future.
Speaking of the law, remember that it protects you. The road is not easy and can deter anyone from reporting a crime. Whistleblowing laws exist for a reason and ensure protection from unfair treatment or retaliation. If you have a valid reason to suspect a crime, the law mandates it be taken seriously and handled with confidentiality and sensitivity.
Whistleblowing vs. Personal Grievances
Ensure your case is not a personal grievance such as termination, workload complaints, or issues with colleagues and third parties. Such cases do not qualify as whistleblowing since they are not in the realm of public interest. Exceptions to the rule take place if a personal grievance case is in the public interest.
Find out which are the correct channels to raise your concerns. Company handbooks typically contain details of how to make a report and to whom. While the first level of reporting is usually to your manager, company guidelines also have provisions to skip this level and report cases to HR, senior management, the board, Compliance, or Legal.
Do not go directly to the press with your information or publish it online. Doing so can backfire and risks undermining your credibility and reputation.
If there is no action even after following the proper channels, you are within your rights to escalate concerns - especially if you suspect a cover-up or if lives are at stake. Depending on the situation, take up your concerns with the police, a regulator, or the press if required.
Take Prompt Action
Justice delayed is often justice denied. If you know of wrong-doing, report it immediately. It is but natural to seek more evidence, but that is the job of investigators. Remain a witness to the crimes and leave the evidence gathering to the authorities. Digging up more information by yourself could tip off the suspects and derail the investigation.
Altruism or Financial Gain?
Consider why you want to blow the whistle. Is it a moral obligation? Are you looking to get rich? Often, the moral implications far outweigh any financial gains one can hope to make. Get excellent legal help and familiarize yourself with various whistleblower provisions. Additionally, some countries offer reward programs for whistleblowers while others do not.
It is not to say the rewards cannot be significant. However, such cases have statutes of limitation, various conditions, and involve hefty lawyers’ fees. Many times, it is not easy money either.
Becoming a whistleblower is a courageous step. You have the facts and the evidence. If you’re going to report a crime, it is imperative to do it well! By following the correct procedures, the law will protect you from victimization and ensure authorities thoroughly investigate the matter.