The United States has adopted a culture that promotes whistle blowing in most industries. Research indicates that organizations without proper mechanisms for reporting unethical behavior report twice as high fraud related losses compared to those that do not. Johnston (2005) stated that over 40% of all fraud cases in such companies are detected by whistleblowers in comparison to 4% by internal audits, 11% through external audits, 1% by accident, and 18% through internal controls. This shows that the whistle blowers are important and therefore should be protected by the law. However, while the whistleblower protection laws are written to protect persons from retaliation, the protection outlined in the law is a barrier utilized to shield from accountability.
Many may argue that although whistle blowers are mostly helpless employees who reveal the truth about unscrupulous activities taking place at their place of work, others may seek to defend that the whistleblowers use the stipulated law to shield themselves from accountability (Ravishankar 2014). This is because, in most occasions, the whistleblower might have engaged in the unethical activity that they are reporting to the whole world about. This begs the question, if the said company, or employee will be facing consequences due to such actions, why should the whistleblower not face similar actions too.
Laws protecting whistleblowers
Since the Nixon legislation, numerous laws have been put to ensure the safety of whistleblowers. It is because almost 90% of all whistleblowers were either demoted or fired. This did not even account for the psychological and social problems that developed because of their whistle blowing activities. The whistle blower act provided an added incentive for employees to expose unethical behavior in the work place (Gov. UK 2014). Trilight (2014) states that the act even provides the employee several avenues to sue the employer if they suffer retaliation after revealing this kind of information. These include the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and the Federal False Claim Act (FFCA) that protects employees who report an employer because of using state funds illegally and hazardous working conditions (Trilight 2014).
Trilight (2014) debates that such legislation makes it more advantageous for an employee to report activities of the company to the outside world than reporting them to higher management. While most companies today encourage internal whistleblowing, others engage external authorities for their own personal gain. This is especially alarming when a company has put in place strategies that encourage internal whistle blowing. This is because most companies have realized the benefits of whistleblowing but want to suffer the consequences of external whistleblowing. Such consequences include altering the cooperate environment in which the company operates. Ravishankar (2014) argue that the company may also want to avoid destroying the image of a responsible company in which most institutions have built over long periods. If an employee would choose to engage in external whistleblowing, therefore, compromising such essential parts of the company, the employee should be ready to face the consequences like legal implication due breaking the employment contract and others (Gov. UK 2014).
Nevertheless, the law also protects employees who break employment contracts. Ravishankar (2014) state that employers then wonder when the government will protect the rights of the employers if it will protect the employers who had initially signed a contract restricting them from revealing company secrets. Such employees should be accountable for the consequences that they attract as a result of their action. These consequences should be especially severe for employees who do not exploit all the avenues provided by the company. However, the law also protects this kind of employees through the provision that the employee is allowed to engage in external whistle blowing id they feel that the leadership of the company may be involved in the unethical activity (Trilight 2014). The act also protects an employee from retaliation by the employer prompted by external whistle blowing.
Wittkower (2014) argues that the whistle blower also adopts a very perilous moral stand by taking private information public. Obvious judgment does agree that the employee violated the employers trust given to them in good faith. The only reason they are able to provide such information is that the employer had faith in them and warrants them a position in which they are able to cause havoc for the company. Not only is such an action arrogant, but it shows the employee lacks loyalty to their employees.
The national security agency contractor Edward Snowden has put NSA surveillance programs in the spotlight after he leaked information about the project. While others argue that his actions were heroic, critics state that this flamboyant attitude and the form in which he engaged the matter was nothing more of arrogant. The fact that whistleblowers scrutinize themselves and see themselves worth of a moral standing that warrants them to be the position to judge the activities of the organization and provide a verdict which is revealing private information to the whole world, they should be prepared to be accountable for their actions (Wittkower 2014).
Under further scrutiny, Jones and Lublin (2010) reveals information that employees who engage in external whistleblowing under the protection of the law stand to reap incredible benefits. The whistle blowing act states that in the event an employee faces retaliation because of external whistleblowing, most courts will order that they are reinstated back to their original positions and receive a monetary compensation from their employers. The only punishment the whistleblower faces is a 25% reduction of the compensation awarded if they might have acted dishonestly (Jones and Lublin 2010).
Governing bodies have also seen the opportunity presented by external whistle blowing activities and started offering attractive financial incentive to employees who provide information about the activities of the company or employer that might have engaged in defrauding activities. For example, the IRS promises to offer the whistleblower 30 percent of all the assets recovered through the information provided by the whistleblower. Jones and Lublin (2010) states that a corporate whistle blower stands to get 10 to 30 percent of a penalty of $1 million prompted by the U. S Securities and Exchange Commission if they provide evidence regarding financial fraud.
Cheryl Eckard, a former employee of the GlaxoSmithKline secured a $96 million award through the False Claim Act for whistleblowing. This was as a result of an investigation spearheaded by the information he provided securing a $750 million settlement between GlaxoSmithKline and the justice department (Jones and Lublin 2010). Lawyers have also embraced the recent changes made by the law to secure a potential growing market. Law firms have been seen putting up advertisements that attract clients who might be in possession of such information.
Johnston (2005) argues that the whistleblowers do not only stand to benefit financially but also gain recognition because of the media coverage involved in such events. While the individual receives public approval as a courageous role model of the society, the company suffers in stock decline as well as loss of customers. The public should also not forget that, in most cases, the whistleblower is motivated by the incentives put in place by the governing bodies and not the ethical dilemma that stands to help the people from being defrauded by the company. This is no reason for congratulating such members of the whistle blowing communities. Arguably, the whistleblower could be compared to the defrauding individual since they share similar incentives: money. Consequently, they should not be protected from facing the consequences of their actions (Johnston 2005).
Johnston (2005) reveals that whistleblowing has also become very common in politics. Over the recent years, political rivals have used whistleblowing tactics to discredit their opponents especially during elections. Their activities are usually not in the best interest of the people, but they use the opportunity to advance their own personal interest. This kind of activity does not exactly define selfless acts but instead promote selfish strategies. Such individuals should be prosecuted instead of being rewarded. Since the whistleblower act is one that recognizes and rewards morality, it should also prosecute any malicious actions involved in revealing unethical habits.
Although whistleblowers may use the protection of the law to ensure that that they maintain their positions at the said companies, Johnston (2005) state that they cannot dictate the employers and fellow employee sentiment because of their action. The employers may be forced by the law to give them their positions back, but the trust can never be reinstated. This is usually worse if the whistle blowing activities may have caused the company a large cost fine or a huge share of their customer base. Whistleblowers should, therefore, consider if reporting the company’s unethical behavior is worth sacrificing their careers.
Whistleblowing has become an essential part of the society, and it is widely embraced as it saves governing bodies numerous resources in man-hours that could have been used in investigating the issues. Today, the internet offers even more avenues to spread information gathered from an institution while remaining anonymous. This is especially beneficial to individuals who have already made up their minds to provide information about their workplaces. Therefore, efforts should be created to safeguard their identities.
However, these individuals should first understand that the internet or journalist could not ensure complete anonymity. As a result, they might have to face some animosity if their identity were recovered. In addition, to validate the evidence, the whistle blower might have to reveal their identity because without a name the evidence would be dismissed as rumors. Consequently, if an individual becomes a whistleblower, he should be ready to be accountable for their actions. Notably, the whistleblower should also have to face the law if they had been involved with illegal activities that may have prompted them to blow the whistle. Therefore, the law should remove the legislation that protects them from being accountable for their actions if they contributed to an illegal action. This is because such individuals who whistle blow are not motivated by ethics but personal gains.
Jones, Ashby., & Lublin, Joann. S. Critics blow whistle on law: The Wall Street Journal, Nov 1, 2010. Web April 15, 2014. Retrieved from: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304879604575582603 173894296
Wittkower, D. E. Are you a whistleblower or a snitch: The Wall Street Journal, Nov 1, 2010. Web April 15, 2014. Retrieved from: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/06/17/the-thin-line-between- whistleblowing-and-snitching/
Gov. UK. Whistleblowing, 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/whistleblowing/how-to-blow-the-whistle
Johnston, Megan-Jane. Whistleblowing and accountability: Australian Nursing Journal, 2005.
Trilight. The rise of whistle blowers, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.trilightzone.org/the_rise_of_whistle_blowers.html
Ravishankar, Lilanthi. Encouraging internal whistleblowing in organizations, 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/submitted/whistleblowing.html