View Full Version : Anyone been a whistleblower?
Dec. 24, 2009, 09:31 PM
Posting under an alter for obvious reasons.
Anyone have experiences they can share? (PM's welcome.)
How did it turn out? How long did things drag on for? Did your whistleblowing involve powerful people? What were the long term repercussions on you and your career?
Would you do the same thing again given the opportunity to go back?
Dec. 24, 2009, 11:37 PM
Not a whistle blower per se but I am shop steward for the Union for our group which means I do ALOT of unpopular things in regards to management.
I would say, if you're thinking about doing it, realize that there will be repercussions, you just have to work out if its worth it AND what real protection you have in regards to keeping your job.
Can you say a little about what the issue is?
Dec. 24, 2009, 11:46 PM
My husband and I worked at the same company before we married - he building the plant and me in the office. Between us we uncovered a big scam.
Guess what, that Christmas he was fired...er laid off because of "cutbacks"!
It turned out ok - we have had our own business for thirty years and have enjoyed being self-employed and it may not have happened under different circumstances.
Dec. 24, 2009, 11:54 PM
Within the corporate world, I did once turn in someone higher up the food chain than me to internal affairs. I reported it as a potential ethical violation/conflict of interest.
Resulting investigation was rather.....surreal. But it helped bring some other things out, and the individual involved did find it expedient to resign within a year. Mission accomplished. I didn't want the person punished so much as I just wanted him gone.
Lessons learned: 1. Do it right. There is some kind of procedure to be followed; do so. Another person tried turning in an "anonymous" complaint that just got them in huge trouble. Anonymous never really stays anonymous. 2. Have documentation and don't go beyond it. 3. Be prepared for trouble. Assume the person you are whistle-blowing on is going to find out you did it and that they are NOT going to be immediately removed from their position. 4. If possible, have friends in high places that can somewhat protect you or have favors you can call in. They won't be able to make your day to day life any easier, but they might be able to stop you from being fired before, during, or immediately after.
Bottom line: only you can decide what you think is right, and only you can decide what you can and can not live with. Act according to how you want to live.
Dec. 25, 2009, 01:01 AM
Your situation is too vague for us to give you much help, but before filing a complaint you may want to meet with an employment attorney who can help you protect yourself from retaliation.
Depending on what the circumstances are/what is going on, you may want to consider meeting with a qui tam/False Claims Act attorney. Going this route could permit you to recover $$, which is particularly valuable if you might lose your job as a result of whistleblowing.
Dec. 25, 2009, 09:30 AM
Thanks for the replies. I know it's vague but I really don't want to be too detailed. I suppose I could say that it involves theft, fraud, falsification, by someone in a position lower than me, activities allegedly going on before my arrival in my position, but definately occurring after. I don't know if anyone higher than me is involved with that person's activities but it wouldn't surprise me. I followed reporting procedures according to documents I had on how to do so. I do have documentation. Quin, can you explain what you mean by "don't go beyond it?" I think my high placed friends weren't high enough because I was let go shortly after reporting it to the people above me.
Dec. 25, 2009, 10:21 AM
I once reported an employer to the EEOC for refusing to interview black job applicants. These were the days of classified Help Wanted ads in the paper. Someone would call regarding an advertised position, and as soon as it became (supposedly - it was all based on dialect and the caller's location) obvious that the inquiree was black, that was as far as it went. I only remember one black applicant actually making it to the front door; there was a polite and brief exchange before the applicant was told the position had been filled (it hadn't been).
The company owner was stupid enough to leave a paper trail incriminating himself. There was a file drawer full of pre-interview applications with "BLACK" scrawled across them.
It took some time to get the investigation rolling (during which time I moved on) but yes, he did get nailed hard, plus it opened up another can of worms in that his accounting practices came under scrutiny as well. The fines levied plus his legal expenses led to his closing up shop.
I have to admit that my motivation in reporting him was in no small part attributable to the fact that I hated the man with a passion - he was a horrible bigot and basically just an evil person.
Dec. 25, 2009, 11:42 AM
I was a manager in a small town grocery store years ago and found out ( written evidence ) that the store was price fixing some of the dairy products with the only other store in town. Called the feds and they put a stop to it very quickly. The stores ( a chain ) upper management never found out as it could have been any employee from either store. I was glad I did it and absolutely would do it again. It's funny the topic came up as i thought of this this am and hadn't given it a thought in years. Like most of us, i dispise liars and frauds and the fact that they were forcing a higher market price for food and milk I found appalling.Not to mention price fixing groceries is highly illegal.I am making a long story short. Op, do what you know is right, but as others have said, be very careful and deliberate every move. Get advice from wise people that you trust outside of work. If you have an attorney in the family like i do ( my daughter is a litigator for a top NY firm ), or a friend that is, take advantage of their advice !
Dec. 25, 2009, 12:47 PM
I am in the middle of a situation now where I reported something, I am purposely vague at this point because other agencies have to be invloved but anyway, I feel very disliked at work. I had no choice and not sorry I reproted the facts.
Dec. 25, 2009, 03:03 PM
I do have documentation. Quin, can you explain what you mean by "don't go beyond it?"
The person in question was a lunatic to work for; made the office miserable. I could probably have documented it, but that's not something you can "blow the whistle" on so I never brought it up during the investigation. Behavior is not actionable.
I could document ethically/financially questionable action A, so that's what I turned in, and I worded it very carefully. Corporate ethics policies usually have language to the effect that someone must not act improperly or give the appearance of acting improperly; I reported that I did not KNOW they had acted improperly but that X, Y, Z (with copies of paperwork attached) at least gave the appearance of acting improperly.
Now, everybody "knew" that while A was happening, the real problem was B. But I couldn't prove B. So I never mentioned it. I suspect that it got alleged by others during the ensuing investigation, but I wasn't going to go there.
That's what I mean by only going where you can. I was absolutely sure of B; I had seen B occur, but I did not have proof later to a third party of B.
And in fact, during the investigation a completely different item C came up, and I heard through the grapevine that the final disciplinary result was due to C - which I had never known about before the stuff hit the fan!
Dec. 25, 2009, 05:02 PM
I turned in a VP for theft and was fired... but then passed the info to the US Justice Department as it involved importing and interstate commerce, they put the puppy in jail but I was un-hirable in that line of work afterwards
Dec. 25, 2009, 05:24 PM
I've done it all my life. The most helpful thing, I've found is to cover your tracks whenever "that little voice inside" tells you to, although it may look unnecessary or even silly.
Dec. 25, 2009, 06:09 PM
Yes, twice. Both with "powerful" people.
1. I was only 25 years old and was Assistant Treasurer for a city in VA that will remain nameless. The Treasurer was an elected position and she'd held it for 20+ years. I suspected her of embezzling from the city. Lucky for me, I had been recommended to get the job from an accounting firm that audited the city (I'd been a bank manager prior to that). I told the firm my suspicion, then resigned. An investigation ensued and 3 years later she was convicted of embezzlment of at least $800K and, though even in her 60's, served jail time.
2. At age 31, my boss of 6 years (Sr. VP) of a top political ad agency was getting ready to steal the co's biggest client, even though he had a non-compete. He made the mistake of assuming I'd condoned this and I'd go with him to start a new agency with the big client. I had to let the Chairman/CEO know. That client produced 70% of the company's profit and to lose it would have been devastating (and would have caused massive layoffs of my co-workers, I'm sure).
These two events were about the most stressful and personally traumatic in my working life. That's because I was close to both of these people professionally and personally.
BUT, I'm not one to ignore cheaters who have no allegience to anyone other than themselves and abuse those who pay their paychecks (and where doing so can affect a whole host of people). In the case of the city -- the taxpaying voters. In the case of the Sr. VP -- the owner who built his company from the ground up on his own dime and employed several hundred people who depended upon their jobs.
I wish more people would not turn a blind eye to this kind of thing.
My stepping up had nothing to do with my opinion of these people, but only to do with protecting those who they were harming...and who didn't know it.
But be prepared to back up what you assert with facts and a paper trail. Hearsay can bite you in the butt, as you don't know someone else's motives against a perceived doer of bad deeds.
There were no repercussions regarding my career. In case #1, the Treasurer never knew it was me that got the ball rolling with auditors. However, in case #2 (the Sr. VP) -- the owner who of the company who barely knew me until I asked to meet with him about this must have trusted my words/facts. He actually hired a bodyguard for me for about a month as my old boss was calling me day and night threatening a "hit" on me. I was scared sh$#less, but it seems he turned to cocaine after he was fired.
I do not regret what I did for one minute. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, though it was anything but easy emotionally. This was 30 years ago and I'm alive, well and career still tops.;)
OTOH, if both situations had backfired on me (we know how corps can protect eachother), it may have changed my career/success. But in the end, I would know I did the right thing and could sleep at night.
Dec. 25, 2009, 06:18 PM
It didna work out so well. Witness four months to find a FT job, at half the pay... :uhoh: Was blackballed by former boss for job of equal pay and stature where he was golfing buddy with the County Commissioner who had the only veto vote. I had passed interview, oral board & background with flying colours. But didn't get it because of golfing buddies. :(
I can live with myself though, and know the writing had been on the wall for a while.
I think it's completely about being able to live with yourself. Even if you're poorer than dirt.
I am told I could have had several legal actions after my being 'invited to leave.' I am not the type, and honestly, had no idea even where to start as far as going with a pro-bono or contingent type.
I am a FAR happier, better person for just having let it go and moved on. In weak moments I think I'm stupid for being poor and not following up with legal action... <shrugs> In good moments, it is SO much better just left behind completely.