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How To Avoid Whistleblower Retaliation Claims - Part 2

March 03, 2008

In an earlier post entitled How To Avoid Whistleblower Retaliation Claims – Part 1, we cited five proactive steps an employer should consider to limit his or her liability. The fifth step was to establish a procedure for responding to whistleblower complaints. Here are some guidelines that may be helpful in developing an effective procedure:

1. Recognize the complaint. The first step for employers is to recognize the whistleblower’s complaint. Increased sensitivity among supervisors and managers will help ensure that run-of-the-mill complaints are separated from potential whistleblower activity.

2. Investigate the complaint. Investigating a whistleblower complaint is no different than from investigating any other type of complaint. The investigations should be prompt and appropriately thorough to address the allegations.

3. Document the investigation. Documentation is critical to establish the appropriateness of the investigation, as well as to help gather the facts to address the underlying allegations.

4. Remediate the complaint. At the conclusion of the investigation, a candid assessment of the allegations should be conducted. At this stage, the employer must determine what, if anything, should be done in response to the underlying allegations.

5. Debrief the complainant. At the conclusion of the investigation, it is important to close the loop with the complaining employee. This does not mean, however, that all of the intimate details of the investigation and the employer’s plans to address the issues must be shared. An appropriate balance must be struck between sharing details and preserving confidentiality.

6. Develop a “go-forward” game plan. Once the underlying allegations have been addressed, the employer should consider ways to improve its processes to avoid future complaints. This presents opportunities to improve employee relations and the employee’s perception of the organization, as well as demonstrating a commitment to corporate ethics.

To learn more about these guidelines, we recommend you read an excellent article written by John Bagyi that can be found on the Job Service Employer Committee website.

Throughout the entire process, it is critical to follow policy. Although part of the strategic game plan going forward might be to revise a policy, failure to follow existing company policy during a pending investigation could create problems in whistleblower litigation, should it develop.

Information courtesy of Labor and Employment Law Blog


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