A recent study from the Ethics Resource Center indicates that the rate of retaliation against whistleblowers is on the rise. One in five workers who reported legal or ethical misconduct such as fraud or discrimination experienced retaliation as a result of the report.
Study authors defined retaliation as "a negative consequence experienced by an employee for reporting observed misconduct."
Fear of experiencing retaliation is the most commonly cited reason for choosing not to report misconduct. About 45 percent of employees observe misconduct at work, but only 65 percent of those people report it to the proper authority.
According to the survey, the authority that receives the complaint seems to impact the rate of retaliation. Whistleblowers who report the issue to someone higher up in the management chain responded with a lower rate (27 percent) of retaliation, whereas whistleblowers who used an ethics hotline to report misconduct had a higher rate (40 percent).
Ethics hotlines are often set up in response to widespread complaints of retaliation and are designed to be anonymous and confidential. However, the higher rate of retaliation associated with the hotlines indicates that the system is not working as designed.
Retaliation, along with having negative consequences for employees and employers, is also prohibited under federal and state employment laws and whistleblower protection laws. Employees who are demoted, harassed, fired, or otherwise disadvantaged because of a complaint about company misconduct may be eligible for relief under the law. Some employees ask for compensation for lost pay during the period of retaliation or to be reinstated to their previous positions. A retaliation lawsuit can also be the catalyst for policy changes that help prevent further misconduct and retaliation.
More information about employee's rights can be found on our San Antonio retaliation lawyer page.
Source: Wall Street Journal, "Whistleblower Retaliation on the Rise, Study Finds," C.M. Matthews, Sept. 5, 2012.