Whistleblowers expose the destruction or misuse of sensitive documentation, funding, or information. Whistleblowers are ordinary citizens who exercise their duty to expose misconduct. Having a whistleblower case places several federal protections over you, like shielding you from unfair repercussions such as work termination.
However, notifying superiors of violations or misconduct often isn’t enough action to ensure justice. For full rectification, whistleblowers need to assist in providing testimonies, investigations, and other steps in the procedure. During this period, a whistleblower must carefully and correctly handle every single moment, or the entire whistleblowing case could be jeopardized.
The following are the four most common mistakes whistleblowers should avoid.
Calling a Hotline
There are two primary types of hotlines: employer hotlines and government hotlines. Calling could either deny you an opportunity to gain your reward or might just get you fired. Many companies have ethical lines or company hotlines. Some companies even claim that professionals outside the organization handle their hotlines; typically, such hotlines promise to take appropriate action. HR representatives or outside consultants usually answer these hotlines.
Unfortunately, very few whistleblower claims through hotlines ever see any action. Worse still, some companies misappropriate the hotline as a tool to single out the “troublemakers.” Instead of a company taking action against the reported wrongdoer, they find a means to get rid of the whistleblower, using various means such as demotions, transfers, cutting of hours, or even firing. Your attempt to internally fix the problem may blow upon you. Therefore, always begin by contacting an attorney to guide you on the appropriate steps.
Failing to Keep a Record
Right from the minute, you begin to suspect wrongdoing, start keeping a journal. Collect all examples and facts related to your suspicions. Remember not to use a company device to make that record. Refrain from keeping this journal in your office’s desk drawer. The chances are, if you get fired or leave work voluntarily, you’ll lack an opportunity to get your evidence from the office.
Not only is a journal useful in gathering evidence, but memories also fade over time. Federal procedures require that all whistleblower claims contain an extent of particularity. Failing to keep a journal may leave you with a lawsuit filled with unanswered holes. Facts need to state who, where, how, and when. Have examples of the wrongdoings written in detail; otherwise, your claim may come across as a mere story or allegation—no matter how true it is.
Breaking the Seal of Secrecy
Under many whistleblowing agreements, disclosing even the mere existence of the claim is against the law. Something as simple as telling your best friend at work could lead to the information leaking to your bosses. You will have broken the law and given the wrongdoer a heads up to make a story explaining the actions or even destroy the evidence.
One of the most challenging whistleblowing requirements is being extremely careful to not share the claim with anyone. The government prefers secretly investigating whistleblower cases. The secrecy prevents wrongdoers from knowing they are under watch and destroying evidence. You’ll notice that a lot of the whistleblower laws carry a sealing requirement. Therefore, observe secrecy before and after filing the claim.
Choosing the Wrong Attorney
A wrong choice of attorney quickly leads to no case at all. There are many intelligent and excellent lawyers. However, the whistleblowing law is not just complicated but changes frequently. Unless an attorney works on it daily, it’s cumbersome to keep up. It’s easy to pick out the best lawyer you know, who might, unfortunately, be the best at divorce law and have never handled a whistleblowing claim.
Don’t shy from asking questions to determine whether the attorney has handled a case like yours before. Second, look for an SEC whistleblower lawyer who specializes in the field. Your guiding rule should be their background experience in whistleblowing claims.
Protect Your Whistleblowing Claim
Federal laws go out of their way to protect whistleblowers, mostly because whistleblowers play a crucial role in eradicating corrupt practices, among other wrongdoings. With so much protection, it’s only fair that you also do your part in protecting the claim. Avoid easily avoidable mistakes that may jeopardize your claim.