Never Assume Anything About Whistleblowing

Whistleblowers have played a big role in national news over the last couple years. With whistleblowers making up more headlines than ever before, from the #MeToo movement to the Ukraine scandal, there has been, in turn, increased analysis of whistleblowing behavior and awareness on the part of the general public of what it means to blow the whistle.

One question that often comes up when more people begin blowing the whistle is whether the increased whistleblowing activity is indicative of an increase in criminal activity. This is an understandable assumption to make, but it’s important not to assume anything, and to carefully assess each situation individually. Instead, as was the case with the #MeToo movement, it could very well be that there’s not an increase in misconduct, but an increase in people who are willing to speak up about their experiences.

Here are a few takeaways for employers in this modern era of whistleblowing to keep in mind when considering their own internal reporting and investigatory systems.

  • More whistleblowers is always a good thing: If the alternative is people being scared to come forward or report issues that exist, then it’s always better to have more whistleblowers. Companies with more whistleblower complaints are actually likely to have fewer lawsuits and fines. More whistleblowers is indicative of a strong company culture that values transparency and integrity.
  • Trust secondhand reports: Secondhand reports have a lot of value to employers. You should not assume that because they’re secondhand they’re unreliable. In fact, studies show secondhand reports lead to more enforcement actions than firsthand reports, which tend to be more self-serving or minor in nature.
  • Don’t ignore small reports: Just as you shouldn’t assume secondhand reports are unreliable, you also shouldn’t skip over reports with little information. These employees often don’t want to give everything they know right away, because they’re worried about whether or not they can trust their superiors in charge of the investigation. Usually if you show you can be trusted, they’ll be able to provide more evidence.

For more information about whistleblowers and avoiding letting your assumptions get the better of you, contact an experienced whistleblower lawyer at Kardell Law Group.