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Employee Whistleblower

Employee whistleblowers are gaining more legal protection in the U.S. and around the world, in a relatively new trend that views corporate whistleblowing as an employee right that should be protected. In decades past, employee whistleblowers were very vulnerable to retaliation in various degrees, but with the passage of time and the positive recognition that many employee whistleblowers have received, the employment laws are slowly changing for the better.

Facilitating Employee Whistleblowing

For example, in July 2008, the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC) released its first ever guidelines for employers who want to set up a program to facilitate employee whistleblowing. The chairman of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Commission, Francois Vincke, noted that "Fraud remains one of the most problematic issues for business worldwide, no matter the country of operation, industry sector, or size" and that "while whistleblowing programs are a highly effective way to flag fraud early on, many companies do not have these schemes in place due to cultural or legal differences."

Recommendations for Employee Whistleblowing Programs

In the United States, many regulatory bodies, legislatures at the state and federal level, and non-governmental organizations have repeatedly recommended that public and private employers implement their own internal programs to ensure that employee whistleblowers can report illegalities, fraud, waste, abuse and other wrongdoing - completely confidentially and without fear of retaliation. For example, the inclusion of the whistleblower program in the company's employee handbook is recommended.

Legislation to Protect Employee Whistleblowers

In the U.S., the massive fraud and corruption uncovered by employee whistleblowers at corporations such as Arthur Andersen, Enron, Worldcom, Global Crossing and Tyco brought about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (colloquially referred to as "SOX"). This whistleblower protection act protects employees of publicly held companies from retaliation when they disclose violations of federal statutes. The prohibited retaliation by the employer includes:

  • termination
  • demotion
  • suspension
  • threats
  • harassment
  • failure to promote
  • discrimination

Of course, there are other whistleblower statutes in effect in the U.S. for federal and state employees and members of the military; some of the statutes are industry-specific (such as for the nuclear energy and defense industries).

If You Are an Employee Whistleblower

If you work for a public or private employer or the U.S. military and you want to "blow the whistle" on wrongdoing, the first step is to contact an experienced whistleblower attorney who will evaluate your case and help you build your claim. The laws that apply to employees who report wrongdoing are rather complex and still evolving, and you'll need knowledgeable, experienced legal representation. Contact us to schedule a private consultation with an attorney who has experience in handling these types of claims.

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