Addressing challenges at the workplace can be difficult, particularly when an employee who reveals misdeeds (whistleblower) is likely to be unfairly targeted by either the employer or other colleagues. So, how should the incoming problems be resolved?
Employers must provide safe and conducive work environments where workers can air grievances and report challenges to authorities freely and safely. This is only possible if the company has an effective whistleblowing system. However, establishing a whistleblowing system can be challenging and that’s why many employers involve a whistleblower lawyer in California to help them out.
Processing a Whistleblowing Case in 4 Steps
Whistleblowers disclose misdeeds being committed by/in an organization to an individual(s) to relevant authorities to take necessary action. Whistleblowing is an effective way for exposing malpractices, such as corruption, tax avoidance, workplace bullying, and more. Besides exposing a misdeed, whistleblowing helps save funds and avoid looming health and environmental disasters.
Employers and workers can lose a lot if no one volunteers to be whistleblower. Unfortunately, whistleblowing comes with certain risks, including risking careers, personal safety, and retaliation. Also, the exposed perpetrators often consider whistleblowers as traitors. So, how should a company address case reported by a whistleblower? There are 4 main steps for conducting internal whistleblowing cases, including:
- Separating Relevant and Irrelevant Issues
A company should identify reports that comply with its whistleblowing system. In other words, identifying incidences that do not require to be investigated. Nevertheless, feedback should be provided to whistleblowers and appropriate action should be taken to rectify reported issues, where necessary. For instance, an internal policy breach requires minimal investigation.
- Maintaining Communication with the Whistleblower
The whistleblower must be contacted immediately to avoid losing their confidence and maintaining the credibility of the company’s whistleblowing system. For instance, you could develop a feedback template to simplify the whistleblowing process.
The whistleblower should be requested to provide more evidence or detailed information to address the incident sufficiently. Confidentiality can be enhanced by using an integrated mailbox. Documents relating to an ongoing investigation should be kept safely in a place (case management area).
- Get to the Bottom of the Reported Issue/Challenge
Internal investigations should commence immediately if there’s sufficient evidence for non-compliance or violation. The process should include separate interviews with workers and whistleblowers. Workers should be informed of their mistakes before an appropriate solution is recommended.
On the other hand, the whistleblower should always be made aware of the actions to be taken by management. Employers or the relevant authorities should comply with the provisions of labor, confidentiality, and data protection laws. All documents related to an investigation should be saved securely in a Case Management area.
- Correct the Situation
The investigation process should be followed by a summary of the case, including any recommended course of action or corrective measures to resolve the matter. Consequences for various wrongs at the workplace should be transparently communicated to everyone in the organization. Also, resolved cases should be archived and anonymized the incident in Case Management Software.
The whistleblower laws enforced by OSHA protect the rights of whistleblowers. But what is retaliation? Whistleblower retaliation at the workplace occurs when an employee is unfairly targeted for exposing the misdeeds committed within or by an organization. Retaliation typically involves adverse actions against a whistleblower.
Retaliation can negatively impact the whistleblower’s morale besides damaging their relationships with colleagues. Also, retaliation may not always be identified or recognized because it usually involves subtle acts, such as excluding the whistleblower from important events or meetings. Other retaliatory actions can include:
- Wrongful termination;
- Unfair demotion;
- Denied promotion;
- Unwarranted disciplinary measures;
- Denial of benefits;
- Intimidating, threatening, or harassing the whistleblower;
- Reducing or changing pay or hours
- Isolating, ostracizing, or mocking an employee;
- Falsely accusing the whistleblower of misconduct or poor performance;
Temporary Workers Protection
Temporary workers are supplied to companies or businesses by staffing agencies in most cases. However, such employees are equally protected by the provisions of the Whistleblower Act. Staffing agencies and host employers are prohibited from retaliating against temporary workers for whistleblowing. Also, the Temporary Worker Initiative Bulletin No. 3 specifies the Whistleblower Protection Rights enforced by OSHA.
Supposing James informs his employer that he contacted OSHA to inform them of an impending health hazard the employer has failed or refused to fix it, even after James notified the employer about the hazard. The company allows an employee to swap their shifts with colleagues if they need time off.
James tried to swap his shifts with a colleague several few days after the OSHA incident, but his employer refused, although other employees can still swap shifts. In such a case, the employer’s actions are retaliatory and James can sue the employer.
Companies should be careful not to overstep their boundaries when handling whistleblowers. Why? The Whistleblower Act protects the rights of whistleblowers and expects employers to obey its provisions.