The term whistleblower has dominated news headlines across the country for years. But what exactly is a whistleblower, and what do they do? We'll discuss this and so much more in this article.
What Is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is an individual or entity that reports fraud, abuse, corruption, or other dangers to public health and safety. In addition, this individual or entity exposes certain illegal activities in a private, public, or government organization.
The whistleblower can choose to report the information either internally or externally. Internal reporting involves delivering the information to a supervisor, compliance manager, human resource manager, or any other relevant party. If they choose to report externally, they might present this information to the media, law enforcement, government, and any relevant party.
Whistleblowers can also report privately via a third party. This option comes in handy when they want to hide their identity. Some companies have adopted this system to encourage whistleblowers to report organizational misconduct without the fear of being punished.
Common Risks Whistleblowers Face
As expected, whistleblowers may not be everyone's favorite, particularly the party or individual responsible for the misconduct. Regardless of the environment, whistleblowing is a risky responsibility. Some examples of common risks whistleblowers face, especially in the workplace, include:
- cutting hours;
- wage garnishment; and
However, it's important to note that the law prohibits the other parties from retaliating against whistleblowers. For example, in California, the law prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers who report attempts to defraud the state government. Such whistleblowers may receive up to half of the proceeds recovered as a reward.
Examples of Whistleblowing in the Workplace
Some of the most common whistleblower cases in the workplace include:
The law protects workers from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, despite knowing this, cases of sexual harassment in the workplace are still on the rise. According to a 2018 survey, at least 59% of women have received unwanted sexual advances while at work. The study also revealed that 27% of men were also sexually assaulted in the workplace.
These shocking numbers prove that sexual harassment is still a major issue of concern in the workplace. As a result, it's becoming increasingly important to hold the offenders responsible for their actions.
Racial discrimination is yet another common characteristic of a toxic workplace. Employment law prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees based on their race.
Examples of racial discrimination incidents in the workplace include:
- a company refuses to hire drivers from a particular race because of the stereotype that certain races are bad drivers;
- an employer refuses to hire a qualified worker from a particular race because they 'wouldn't fit the company's profile';
- an employer orders a Muslim employee to stop wearing a particular religious outfit because the company risks losing customers; or
- an employer refuses to hire a qualified worker because the latter's spouse doesn't fit a particular racial profile.
Cases of workplace-related fraud occur in the United States every day. Such cases occur in almost every field in a company or organization. Some of the most common examples of workplace-related fraud include:
- price fixing;
- not revealing safety concerns and violations;
- false certifications either by educational institutions or certifying agencies;
- unrecorded sick leave or vacation;
- stealing cash, equipment, supplies, inventory, or anything in between;
- using corporate credit cards for unauthorized purchases;
- fake receipts;
- ghost employees;
- false overtime; and
- billing for services not performed.
Corruption is an umbrella term for a wide range of unlawful conduct. Some common cases of corruption at the workplace include:
- kickbacks; and