Wrongdoing in the workplace is more common than you may think. If you’ve ever been a witness to shady business practices at work or you have caught people in compromising situations, you may decide that the right thing to do is to blow the whistle on those involved. But first you should ask yourself these five questions.
1. How Will I be Affected if I Make a Complaint?
Whistleblowers don’t often consider how coming forward with their knowledge will affect them or their families. For example, a whistleblower may find it necessary to change jobs because of the criticism he or she faces after coming forward. You may even get fired. If you find yourself facing these possibilities, consult immediately with a whistleblower attorney, who can explain different options that are available.
2. Do I Have All the Facts?
Sometimes things are not as they seem. Perhaps you see an employee taking money from the company’s petty cash box. It may appear to be wrongdoing on the part of your co-worker, but your co-worker may have received permission by someone in authority to take the money as an intercompany loan to be repaid. Before you speak up, be sure you have all the facts.
3. Have I Exercised All Available Options?
It’s possible that the problem can be solved internally. Consult your company’s code of conduct and its specific disciplinary actions. You may be able to come to a resolution, assuming the issue isn’t specifically unethical or illegal, before consulting a whistleblower law firm.
4. Who Should I Talk to Before Blowing the Whistle?
If you are feeling conflicted about blowing the whistle on a co-worker or your employer, seek an outside source for advice. Trusted friends and family can be valuable, practical, common sense sounding boards. And lawyers who specialize in the False Claims Act can provide legal advice regarding your situation.
5. Have I Discussed the Situation with My Family?
Realize that you will not be the only one affected by your actions. Before you decide to come forward with your knowledge, discuss it with your family. You will need to decide what will happen if you lose your job because of the knowledge you have. You will need to decide if you will be able to live off savings or have alternate income sources until you find another job while potential legal proceedings are underway. Talking with those directly affected will guide you in making the right decision.
Whistleblowing can be a difficult thing to do, especially if it means losing your job or sacrificing workplace relationships. Carefully proceeding through these five questions will help you make the right decision.
About the Author
Cathy Hughes is a legal researcher and certified mediator who specializes in community justice. She is a contributing writer for the law offices of Goldberg Kohn in Chicago. In 2008, Goldberg Kohn obtained the largest verdict in the history of the False Claims Act with a total judgment of $334 million.