The idea of whistleblowing is simple. By rewarding people who are willing to step up and say that there is something wrong going on within a government or business, the goal is to provide a more ethical environment. The only problem is that retaliation against whistleblowers, though illegal, is still something that happens regularly.
45% of American workers stated in a 2011 national report that they had observed wrongdoing in the workplace.
Whistleblowers should be applauded instead of vilified, but the concept of coming forward to report something wrong is promoted as a lack of loyalty. It isn’t a disgruntled employee that is the typical whistleblower. It’s someone who has worked for an agency or company for a long time, believes in the mission, and has a good job performance. That’s the ethics we want in the workplace, yet as a society we question the ethics of whistleblowing?
- Fraud costs a typical company about 5% of its revenues and whistleblowing is the single most common method of fraud detection.
- 1 in 5 corporate fraud cases in large US companies from 1996-2004 was detected by employees and brought forward by a whistleblower.
- 25%. An analysis of European fraud cases shows that this is the percentage of cases that were brought to the attention of a business through anonymous tipping from the employee pool.
- The percentage of employees who have observed wrongdoing and decide to report it: 65%.
- 22% of those who reported wrongdoing said they experienced retaliation because of their actions.
- Out of those who saw wrongdoing and chose not to report it, 46% of this demographic said they made that choice because they were scared of being retaliated against.
- Lawsuits filed under the Federal False Claims Act have recovered more than $40 billion between 1986 and 2013.
- More than $11 billion has come from lawsuits that were filed by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act.
Remember how popular whistleblowing used to be? In 2002, Time even called the year the “Year of the Whistleblower” and put three key figures on the cover of their magazine. We’ve come a long way away from the praises of those times today. Retaliation figures are up. Reporting figures are down. Even though reward programs are in place and laws protect whistleblowers in several nations around the world, it is a lot easier to ignore a whistleblower, silence them, or discredit them than it is to praise them. It isn’t an act of disloyalty. Whistleblowing by its very nature is being more loyal than those who are committing the active wrongdoing in the first place.
Retaliation Is Very Real For Whistleblowers
- In 2011, 31% of whistleblowers experienced physical attacks on their property.
- 83%. That’s the amount that retaliation has increased since 2009, yet whistleblowing incidents have only increased by 12% in the same period of time.
- The biggest jump in retaliation of all employee levels has occurred amongst senior management.
- Only 2% of whistleblowers experience retaliation in companies with programs that have written standards, training, an in-house complaint process, and resources that employees can draw upon.
- EEOC data shows that 1 in 3 charges that are made by whistleblowers will result in retaliation.
- The monetary benefits the EEOC recovered for individuals claiming retaliation went past the $100 million mark for the first time in 2011.
Evidence is only good when people are willing to look at it. This is where the problem with whistleblowing lies. It’s a lot easier to shift a problem under the carpet and forget about it rather than investigate it. Many people would rather ignore a problem than become a target for investigating a problem, even if it is their job to do so. What makes the problem worse is that many whistleblowers will be outed for their statements without an investigation and this creates a hostile work environment. Attacks happen because people are being seen as disloyal. The court system has been trying their best to stop this attitude by issuing summary judgments and through increased rewards, but it hasn’t been enough. Retaliation is ongoing and the best way to stop it is to have clear, precise policies and procedures that can be followed when a whistleblower comes forward.
Why Do We Treat Whistleblowers So Badly?
- The total number of whistleblower complaints that were registered with OSHA in 2012: 2,787.
- More than 50% of the whistleblower complaints that were investigated by OSHA were dismissed.
- 1 in 4 whistleblower complaints is typically withdrawn by the person who makes the complaint in the first place.
- 45. That’s the total number of merit determinations that OSHA determined were valid in their investigation of whistleblower complaints.
- There were 592 whistleblower complaints that were settled outside of the formal investigation process with no determination of right or wrong made.
- There were more retaliation complaints made to the EEOC commission in 2012 than racial discrimination or gender discrimination complaints.
- 38.1% of all charges made against employers in 2012 were retaliation related.
OSHA enforces 22 whistleblower statutes, so they are on the front lines of the complaint process. They investigate thousands every year and the fact is that only about 2% of the whistleblower complaints that are made are merit determinations of wrongdoing. Most people who are actively engaged in wrongdoing are going to realize this statistic and take advantage of it. If someone is unaware of wrongdoing and they receive a whistleblower complaint, which statistic is the most likely outcome? The 98% that there isn’t anything going on… or the 2% chance that there is something going on? The odds are in the favor of a whistleblower complaint being unwarranted, so assumptions are made that it is a false. That’s the real problem right there. Every complaint should be taken seriously and then, only if it is proven to be false, should action be taken.
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