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Whistleblowing

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Whistleblowing: The Right Choice Whistleblowing has become a contentious issue in both the public and private sectors. Whistleblowers are often regarded in derogatory terms. However, they should not be viewed in this manner. They are the average employee who does this out of loyalty. Many are retaliated against, and this forces the whistleblower to seek protections. Despite the negativity and retaliation, whistleblowing is the right decision because it exposes the wrongdoing of the employer. A whistleblower is a “person who reveals to a government agency or news media, confidential information of wrongdoing or conduct he or she regards as unethical”. They are referred to in derogatory terms such as “rat”, “stool-pigeon”, “snitch”, “fink”, and even called disloyal (Liuzzo, 2012, pg 28). But those terms do a disservice to the employee who wants to fix a problem or help the organization. Whistleblowers are none of those labels. Some are considered “citizen crime fighters” or “ethical resisters” who put their careers and lives in jeopardy for the safety of the public (Westman, 1991, pg vii) whose motivation stems from a deep ethical responsibility and loyalty. Any person who decides to speak out understands they have a responsibility not only to the public, but to the company, and to their co-workers. These must be considered in order to determine if whistleblowing is the right course of action. The whistleblower is motivated by whether the perceived threat or harm to others is substantial or insignificant. Whistleblowers must consider whether whistleblowing will lead to correcting the threat of imminent danger. If not, then the public has been provided a disservice due to wasting the public’s time and resources investigating the report (Westman, 1991, pg 29). What type of person becomes a whistleblower? Whitstleblowers come from all demographic backgrounds. Who is more likely to become a whistleblower is based upon their gender, age and work experience, educational background, marital status, and religious beliefs. Male employees are more prone to become a whistleblower than their female counterparts because they may be less affected by peer pressure. In a federal survey, women make up 38% of the internal whistleblowers (reporting within a company) and only 34% of external whistleblowers (those who report to authorities outside of the company). Men are more likely than women to be external whistleblowers in both the federal and private sectors (Miethe, 1999, pg 45). There is speculation regarding younger and novice employees observing and reporting misconduct. They have limited work experience which will place them in more menial jobs. These employees are less likely to report any misconduct either internally or externally for fear of losing their job. However, since they are less vested in the company, they may be willing to expose the misconduct. Older employees who have been in the company longer may have a greater tolerance for the misconduct and view it as “normal” and not worthy of drawing attention. They will report it internally unless the only option to correct the misconduct is through external channels. Supervisors within the federal government are more often external whistleblowers (Miethe, 1999, pg 49). Federal employees with a college education often observe and report misconduct. The reasons are they have a better understanding of their legal rights against retaliation, and are immune from retaliatory attacks by the organization. Also, they have employment skills that are marketable for other job opportunities (Miethe, 1999, pg 50). In state surveys of whistleblowing there are few differences between married and unmarried employees. Both groups are similar in proportions regarding non-observers, silent observers, internal and external whistleblowers. There is also limited support for the assertion that employees who regard themselves as “very religious” will become external whistleblowers (Miethe, 1999, pg 50). Regardless of the person’s background, they are all faced with a decision. Moral conflicts are the root of the decision making process for a whistleblower. He or she must decide if speaking out is in the best interest of the public. The choice is more complicated due to the uncertainties of who is responsible for the abuse or neglect, how great is the threat, and will speaking out result in changes for the better (Beauchamp & Bowie, 1997, pg 328)? The whistleblower also needs to weigh the responsibility to the public’s best interest versus his loyalties to his company and his colleagues. The codes of ethics stresses the responsibility to the public outweighs their allegiance (Beauchamp & Bowie, 1997, pg 328). Another conflict is personal in nature. The core of our loyalties lies with our family, and to some extension, the company that provides employment. We are loyal to our colleagues since we often spend more time with them then our own families. Loyalty also reaches the local community and our country guided by both civic and patriotic duty (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 10). The main dilemma for a whistleblower to solve is choosing between the conflicts and values, such as the loyalty and duty to the company, honesty to the public, to his family and friends, but mostly towards himself. These are all subjective, depending on where the whistleblower lives, his culture, and his own background. The question then becomes not which interest is the most important, but what the level of loyalty is shown to the company. The definition of loyalty is based in accordance with one’s own interest, sometimes acting their own wishes (Rimoldi & Zanchetti, 2007, pg 16). Whistleblowing does however require some disloyalty towards the company, but this could be thought of in a positive way, as it means to be honest to a wide group of people. Internal whistleblowing is not considered disloyal as it aims to solve a problem without destroying a company’s reputation. External whistleblowing is acceptable only when serious harm is involved, when the concerns are ignored by the superior and other channels within the organization, or if convincing and supported evidence of an illegal act will bring about a change and prevent serious harm. There are five additional categories that have been discussed and corrected which have been viewed as acceptable form of disclosure: “1) a disclosure of information showing objectionable misconduct, otherwise not known or visible; 2) a disclosure made in the reasonable belief that it may demonstrate that there had been such misconduct; 3) the person making the disclosure acts in good faith, without malice; 4) the disclosure is made in the public interest ensuring that the community has an effective civil service; 5) the disclosure is not specifically prohibited by law, otherwise considerations of national security or defense would not preclude it could be made” (Rimoldi & Zanchetti, 2011, pg 17). Aside from the five acceptable disclosures, there are four different interests involved: “1) the interest of the whistleblower; 2) the interest of the person or people reported; 3) the interest of the company, which differs in case the reported person is one/some executives or an employee; 4) the interest of the public, which increases its value when a big company is involved (the cases of Enron and WorldCom are just the most famous examples)” (Rimoldi & Zanchetti, 2011, pg 18). The interest of the whistleblower is most controversial due to the fact of the dilemma between being loyal to the company, being honest with himself and the public. Exposing wrongdoing, whether internally or externally will be met with harsh consequences. The higher up the corporate ladder a whistleblower sits, the greater the perceived threat and the more vicious the retaliation. The hierarchy of a corporation will employ fear and intimidation tactics to convince the employees that the organizational power is stronger than the individual, even if the employee has truth on their side. Sometimes making an example out of an employee will keep the others silent. The company will use smokescreen tactics by attacking the individual’s motives, credibility, professional competence, and anything to distract from the alleged misconduct. Internal investigations have been initiated and left open for years. This creates uncertainty and stress which undermines the whistleblower’s credibility. This ensures that the media, government officials and other officials will not take the allegations seriously (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 20). Another tactic used is branding the whistleblower a “problem employee” who fails to improve in his or her job performance. Employers then have confrontational encounters in which the employee will lash out. This leads to reprimands and disciplinary actions to build a case for termination based upon unsatisfactory performance. Although nondisclosure agreements typically fail to outline legitimate exceptions for fraud, waste, and abuse, the threat of criminal sanctions is expressed (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 24). Employers want the whistleblower to become compliant or resign from their job. To accomplish this, the company will block the employee’s access to information by revoking any type of clearance and restrict contact with the other employees. The employee will be forced to work from home or take paid or unpaid administrative leave (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 26). An effective retaliation technique is to deny the whistleblower any requests for training for professional development. This will stifle any career progression, and whistleblowers are then laid off or placed in marginal positions. (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 27). The worst type of retaliation comes in the form of physical harm to the whistleblower. Although not common, they do occur. People have been intimidated, had their family or personal property threatened, and even lost their life (Young, 2012). Whistleblowers are not alone once the wrongdoing is brought to light. There are advocacy partners and protections available. The most common types of advocacy groups are employee organizations such as labor unions, employee federations, and professional organizations. These are all employee based memberships that works to support the member’s interests. Individuals can be punished by their managers for speaking out; however, retaliations and smear tactics are difficult to carry out when a group speaks with one voice (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 131). Unions are often allies to whistleblowers. They have political access, respect among legislators, and working relationship with regulators. Unions may also provide legal counsel, and other legal options such as a binding arbitration in which the whistleblower and management will choose an arbitrator to resolve the case (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 131). As potential allies unions will work in partnership with other affected communities. But some unions support management and are reluctant to challenge the employer. Others may support the whistleblower on the principle, but will not push on the ethical issues due to extended battles with management over pay, benefits, and other issues (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 131). The whistleblower may be forced to trade statutory rights against retaliation with those rights available in a collective bargaining agreement. Whistleblowers may become frustrated as the union abandons their litigation prior to the arbitration hearing (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 131). Employee support organizations combine the missions of issue-oriented public interest groups and employee organizations which consist of employees from a particular industry that supports a common agenda. These groups are more likely to understand and be sensitive to the concerns of the whistleblower (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 132). Professional associations vary in size and mission. Independent organizations that have a sizeable membership can be reliable and influential friends in your struggle to tell the truth and maintain your career. Some associations that receive funding from the industry to maintain their budget will not be useful to the whistleblower (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 133). There are some considerations prior to working with an advocacy group. They can be self-serving; loyal only to their mission; breach your confidentiality; and fail to support the whistleblower against retaliation. The whistleblower must be represented by the group’s attorney in order to maintain attorney-client privileges on any disclosure. Failure to do so may result in waiving your rights, and anyone the whistleblower spoke to can be required to reveal the disclosure (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 133). Private sectors have a number of statutory and common-law provisions to protect the whistleblower, however most lack meaningful due process or adequate remedies; these are neither comprehensive nor well enforced by government agencies or the courts (Devine & Maassarani, 2011, pg 149). There are some protections provided to both the private and public sectors. The False Claims Reform Act of 1986 was amended to increase the penalties enforced upon the violators and endorsed protections for whistleblowers who took part in false claims actions (Westman, 1991, pg 121). The Reform Act understands that some employees may be hesitant to participate in the lawsuit for fear of retaliation. The Reform Act also provides protection to employees who assist in investigations or prosecutions. An employee does not need to establish the employer submitted a false claim; he only is required to act in good faith. A deterrent to retaliation against a whistleblower may be the threat of taking action at the federal district courts. If a whistleblower prevails in court, he may be awarded double the damages, reinstatement, and attorney fees (Westman, 1991, pg 124). There are fourteen states that have endorsed statutes that provide protections to private sectors. These states recognize the obligation to loyalty and require these employees to report any concerns internally; and employers must have the opportunity to correct any deficiencies. Jurisdictions recognize that employers must be provided discretion to uphold performance standards by taking unfavorable actions against non-performing employees. Almost each statute contains a prerequisite that the complaints are made in good faith and no ulterior motives are preventing employers from enforcing performance standards. Although whistleblowers are referred to derogatory terms, they are loyal people with strong ethics. They understand their choice will not only affect them, but their colleagues, the company, and their community. The decision is not any easy one to make. The retributions can have long lasting consequences. But through the use of advocacy programs, statutory and common-law provisions, the whistleblower can be confident he made the right choice.

References
Beauchamp, T., Bowie, N. (1997), Ethical theory and business (8th ed). New Jersey: Prentice Hall Tom Beauchamp is a Professor and Senior Research Scholar at Kennedy Institute of Ethics. He received his graduate degree from Yale University and earned his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1970. He has co-authored four books, and has written over 140 scholarly articles. Norman Bowie is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Minnesota. He has authored or edited 16 books and over 75 articles. This book is a comprehensive anthology of readings, legal perspectives, and cases in ethics in business which provides a strong understanding of ethics in business. Devine, T., Maassarani, T., (2011), The corporate whistleblower’s survival guide. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler Publishers, Inc Tom Devine is the Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project. Since 1979 has assisted over 5,000 whistleblowers in defending themselves against retaliation. Leader in the campaigns to pass or defend 20 major national or international whistleblower laws. He is a Phi Beta Alpha honors graduate from Georgetown University. Earned his J.D. from Antioch School of Law. Tarek Maassarani is the Adjunct Assistant Professor at the School of International Service. He earned his Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, and a J.D. from Georgetown University. This book has essential tips for navigating every step of the whistleblower process. It details what individuals should do if considering to expose wrongdoing or navigating the storm of retaliation. Liuzzo, A. L. (2013). Essentials of business law (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education Dr. Anthony Liuzzo is the Professor of Business and Economics and Director of the MBA and ABBA Programs at Wilkes University. He earned his Ph. D. in Business Administration, Master of Philosophy in Economics, and MBA in Management from New York University; and a law degree from St. John’s University. This book is an introduction into Business Law and focuses on essential knowledge regarding the various topics.
Miethe, T. (1999), Whistleblowing at work. Boulder: Westview Press Dr. Terrance Miethe received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Washington State University. He has authored several books and articles on violent crime, criminal sanctions, and crime typologies. This book examines the issues of whistleblowers from a number of different perspectives.
Rimoldi, C., Zanchetti, M., (2007), Whistleblowing at work: ethical and juridical issues.
Retrieved from: http://www.whistleblowing.it/Whistleblowing%20at%20Work.%20Ethical%20and%20Juridical%20Issues.pdf Westman, D. (1991), Whistleblowing the law of retaliatory discharge. Washington, D.C.: BNA Books Daniel Westman in the managing partner at the Northern Virginia Office. His practice focuses on litigating employee mobility, trade secret, non-competition, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, whistleblower and retaliatory discharge cases. Earned his A.B. from Stanford University and his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. This book provides analysis of the developments related to whistleblower protections and provides expansive protections for whistleblowers.
Young, A. (2011), The pros and cons of being a whistleblower. Retrieved from: http://www.helium.com/items/400154-the-pros-and-cons-of-being-a-whistle-blower

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...Each day an individual will make a decision that will affect their life in some way. Should I wear the green shirt or the yellow shirt? Should I order a shake or lemonade? Should I wash the car today or wait until tomorrow? These simple decisions often happen without serious thought. Why? Because these decision are not life changing ones. But what happens when the decision is not so easy to make, when it’s life changing. Sometimes a person’s conscious greatly affects one’s decision making, especially when the topic of whistle blowing arises. In this paper, I will discuss and analyze whistle-blowing, where it occurs, the effects of whistle-blowing, whether whistle-blowing is an act of betrayal or public service, the consequences of whistle-blowing, and finally I close my paper with a conclusion. This paper also aims to provide a balanced approach to this topic. Understood correctly whistle-blowing is defined as an informant who exposes wrongdoing within an organization. Whistle-blowing is not about informing in the negative but more so, raises concern about malpractice within an organization. More so, it can also be defined as the release of information by a member (or former member) of an organization where there is evidence of illegal or immoral conduct in the organization, or conduct in the organization that is not in the public interest . The decision and bravery of being prepared to blow the whistle is directly related to the cultural resistance in many......

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Whistleblowing, Is It Ethical?

...Position Paper Whistleblowing, Is it Ethical? Whistleblowing, Is it Ethical? The ethical discussion behind whistleblowing has been debated for decades. With each level of every organization seeing the act of whistleblowing from a different position it has become a topic that all business schools address. The Whistleblowing Helpline defines whistleblowing as “raising a concern about a wrong doing within an organization” (About Whistleblowing). Furthermore, whistleblowing specifically refers to the revealing of concerns about legitimate criminal or unjust acts that present danger to the environment of the organization. Therefore, the whistleblower is the person who has a concern within their organization and is moved to raise that concern to the leadership of their workplace or to an external authority (About Whistleblowing). When done in the right context and for the right reasons whistleblowing is ethically acceptable under both the Utilitarian theory and the Deontological theory of ethics. While the act of whistleblowing is considered ethical under the reasoning of these two theories, the outcome of whistleblowing is not always glorious for the whistleblower. Instead most whistleblowers raise their concerns as a means of creating a better future for the organization, as well as all of its stakeholders. An employee who chooses to be a whistleblower is often times ridiculed and despised within their organization, especially when little or nothing is done about......

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