As part of a corporation, chances are you might face whistleblower claims at some point in your career. In corporate law, a whistleblower is an individual who exposes alleged acts of misconduct, dishonesty, or illegal activity that occur within an organization. This alleged wrongdoing can be anything from a health or safety violation to political corruption.
Whistleblowers have the rights to report any wrongdoing they observe without fear of retaliation. Your company also has the right to defend itself against such allegations. It is important to understand the rights of both parties and the procedures for challenging such claims before your company becomes involved in a lawsuit for such a claim.
Who is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is an employee who reports an alleged act of misconduct or otherwise unethical behavior of a company. These claims can be filed internally to upper management regarding the actions of an individual or a department or externally to the regulatory board for the company’s industry.
Laws to Protect Whistleblowers
Multiple laws exist to protect whistleblowers’ rights to expose corruption and misconduct in American businesses. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a program devoted to protecting whistleblowers from retaliation.
Other laws that protect whistleblowers include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and various state-level laws. Find out what the laws are in your state regarding whistleblowers’ and companies’ rights during an investigation.
Defenses Against Whistleblower Claims
There are many steps your company can take to protect itself against whistleblower claims. Consider taking the following actions:
- Assess your current compliance levels. This means understanding exactly what your company must do to comply with the standards set forth by your industry’s regulatory board and federal and state law. Stress the importance of complying with all requirements to your employees and if necessary, train them on proper procedures.
- Encourage all employees to file their grievances internally. If your employees understand the system for reporting issues that arise and work to fix them within the company, you can avoid the stress and expense of working through a lawsuit.
- Train all supervisors in the proper handling of whistleblowing. This means that all managers must understand what retaliation is and how to avoid retaliating against employees who file claims against the company. Supervisors should know which activities are protected from retaliation by law and how to communicate effectively with employees who engage in these activities.
Hire or designate an ombudsman to handle all reports of misconduct at your company. An ombudsman is a professional who investigates any accusations of misconduct or unethical behavior within a company.
Understand Your Rights and Whistleblowers’ Rights
Facing any type of claim against your company can come as a shock if you are not adequately prepared. At Virtual Paralegal Services, we provide the on-the-spot support your company needs when facing a whistleblower’s claim. By outsourcing your paralegal needs to Virtual Paralegal Services, you save time and energy that you can focus on your company’s immediate issues.