Fisher Taubenfeld LLP

Does the whistleblower stigma have you staying quiet?

When wrongdoing takes place at work, anyone could have a difficult time knowing the best way to handle it. The exact options available could depend on the severity of the issue. For instance, if someone takes your lunch from the breakroom refrigerator, you likely do not need to contact the authorities. On the other hand, if you believe that your employer or others within a company are carrying out illegal acts, you may feel the need to take drastic action.

Of course, like many other New York workers, you may worry that you will face negative consequences for reporting wrongdoing. In fact, you may hear the term "whistleblower" and feel an intense negative stigma behind it. However, being a whistleblower is not necessarily a bad role.

Whistleblower misconceptions

Often, people consider whistleblowing a negative act because those who come under scrutiny commonly act as if the whistleblower has acted in a disloyal manner and exposed company secrets. While this approach may be in attempts to save a company's reputation by casting a negative light on the whistleblower, reporting illegal actions can often bring wrongdoing to an end. It is not just those who come under scrutiny who consider whistleblowers disloyal either, as many people hold negative perceptions toward those who blow the whistle.

This negative perception may stem from the misconception that whistleblowers only go to the press to report illegal company behavior, as if the whistleblower is seeking attention. That is not necessarily the case. Some individuals will report illegal actions internally in efforts to have the problem addressed. Still, these parties fall into the category of whistleblowers, which is important to note because they may need the protection offered under whistleblower laws.

Leaking information is not whistleblowing

Whistleblowing often revolves around reporting serious misconduct within a company. The misconduct can violate the law, or involve an abuse of authority or a number of other serious offenses. Some people consider leaking information and whistleblowing to be the same, but generally, leaked information is not as substantial. Some leaked information could reveal a CEO's affair or other salacious activity but not necessarily shed light on serious violations that threaten the public interest.

Fears of blowing the whistle

If you have come across serious wrongdoing in your workplace, you may feel the need to file a report but worry that you could face retaliation or other mistreatment at work. This fear is valid, but you may want to remember that the Whistleblower Protection Act works to prevent such unfair treatment from befalling individuals in your position. If you have concerns about how to properly go about filing your complaint, you may want to first consult with an employment law attorney to better understand your options.

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