The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a wide range of potential risks to employers beyond just exposure to the virus. There has been a significant increase in whistleblowing activity surrounding issues such as wrongful termination, remote work issues and furloughs.
As such, it is crucial that companies in all fields carefully consider potential whistleblower-related risks and the steps they can take to mitigate them. Here are a few strategies to implement.
- Be proactive with addressing issues: According to research by the SEC, 85 percent of whistleblower award recipients reported violations internally first, but then supervisors failed to address those issues. If you have employees reporting issues internally, it is crucial you take immediate action to investigate them before they decide to go over your head.
- Carefully evaluate your policies: Companies should always find time to periodically review their procedures regarding the processing and investigation of whistleblower complaints and issues of nonretaliation. The pandemic may make it necessary to beef up standards for remote work and fully digital workplaces; if you had not previously had remote work as a possibility, it may be necessary for you to update your policies.
- Consider layoffs: Many companies will need to engage in significant layoffs, which will almost certainly result in greater numbers of employee complaints. Former employees will be more likely to submit whistleblower complaints as they will feel they no longer have anything to lose. Therefore, it is important to make sure you address any potential issues before layoffs begin, and that you take proactive steps to encourage internal reporting from employees at all times.
- Make compliance a priority: Companies should prioritize programs built around compliance during the COVID era. This means ensuring there are all necessary mechanisms for reporting compliance concerns in place, and that these mechanisms are well known to all employees.
For more information about the steps you can take to mitigate whistleblower risk during the pandemic, contact an experienced whistleblower lawyer at Kardell Law Group.