Whistleblowers help uncover more than 40 percent of corporate fraud. Employees who know their workplaces are breaking the law have the power to seek justice for those that fraudulent behavior affects. However, many employees opt not to do anything for fear of their employers branding them as the office snitch. If you know your company is engaging in fraudulent behavior, don’t be afraid of doing the right thing. Here’s what to consider before becoming a whistleblower.
The Validity of Your Case
Whistleblower protection laws apply to employees who report health and environmental safety breaches, regulatory breaches, cover-ups, and criminal offenses. If you have grievances that you can have solved by going to HR, then solve them that way. Reporting harassment and other in-office problems doesn’t count as blowing the whistle.
You need to have original information as evidence. Original information is independent knowledge that the SEC doesn’t already know and doesn’t come from public sources. Be prepared to provide specific details of each incident.
Know how long you have to file your suit as a whistleblower. Consult an attorney and tell them what you know. You’re only an observer in this case—it’s somebody else’s job to do the investigating.
Discretion, Discretion, Discretion
Avoid muddying the waters from the get-go by staying quiet about your case. Don’t talk to anybody about blowing the whistle except your lawyer. Keep your head down at work while the investigation is ongoing, even if you’re sure you’re about to take the company down.
If other people at work, such as your supervisors, find out that you’re planning to blow the whistle on them, you may lose your job for it. Hold your cards close to the chest, so to speak.
The worst-case scenario for you as a whistleblower is to get caught up in your employer’s punishment. If you were a part of the fraudulent or illegal activity at any time, you might have to answer for your participation. Additionally, if blowing the whistle caused you to breach any confidentiality agreements you signed upon your hire, you may face some consequences at work.
However, the SEC also has a vested interest in rewarding whistleblowers for their actions. If you win your case and the SEC collects more than $1 million from the offending party, you can receive between 10 and 30 percent of that money.
Blowing the whistle on a company breaking the law can lead to many outcomes, and you need to weigh them carefully before you file. These things to consider before becoming a whistleblower will help you think twice and ensure you cover all your bases.