Is Whistleblowing Worth the Trouble?

Whistleblowers – people who report unethical or illegal activity within an organization – are necessary to keep corruption out of the companies they work for. Recent news cycles have brought the word to my attention more so than usual, so I decided to do some research to better understand how whistleblowers are protected under the law.

Whistleblowers are important in keeping not only safe work environments but safe societies, as well. If companies or government entities were allowed to get away with whatever they wanted, we would live in a more dangerous society. But, because their testimonies can be so devastating for the governments or companies they work for, whistleblowers are often threatened with retaliation. They could be fired. That’s why legal protections exist so people can continue to bring corruption to light.

Some whistleblowers, however, may run into even more problems than they normally would if they revealed confidential information that could hurt a third party (for instance, a patient’s medical records). There are a lot of nuances and narrow paths to tread, which is why it is always a big deal when a whistleblower does come forward.

How It’s Done

There are two types of whistleblowing:

  1. Private sector
    1. If the company is in the private sector, meaning they’re not under direct governmental control, the whistleblower may be in more danger of losing their job, their safety, or their ability to generate income if they come forward with their information. 
  2. Public sector
    1. In the public sector, such as local governments or even the White House, there may be chances of the whistleblower facing criminal charges, depending on the severity of the information they reveal.

A whistleblower may choose to reveal their testimony within the organization they work for, or they may give it over to a third party, such as a news channel or a blog, to make it public. The latter is the kind of whistleblowing the general public is most aware of because the entire scandal is revealed from the start. When the whistleblower keeps their testimony within the organization, the public might not find out about the corruption until after decisions have been made or people have been fired. 

One thing that was made abundantly clear to me during my research is that a whistleblower always needs a good attorney. Whistleblowers are under a lot of pressure, and many are threatened or fired over their testimonies. As Austin-based whistleblower attorney’s office, Melton Law Firm, states, not all workers are protected under the same whistleblower laws, and people who are considering whistleblowing should do their best to understand their rights first. Even so, a lawyer may be able to help someone get compensated for lost income if they have already been fired for exposing corruption.