If you are a protected whistleblower, your employer is usually not allowed to take retaliatory action against you. But that doesn’t mean whistleblowing doesn’t come with some other negative consequences, and we believe our clients should be prepared for all possibilities when they make a choice to bring illegal or unethical action to light.
Whistleblowing laws don’t always protect you from the response of coworkers or those in the business community. Your industry reputation can be at risk, especially if others fight back against your claims. While anonymity is sometimes an option, it can’t always be relied upon, so you have to know exactly what you might be getting into before you make a whistleblowing statement.
A study published by the National Library of Medicine points to problems experienced by some medical doctors after they brought wrong practices to light. These physicians were actually encouraged by their organizations and the medical community as a whole to step forward, as doctors are supposed to report wrongdoing and unethical behavior to appropriate parties. However, the same doctors did see negative consequences after becoming part of a whistleblowing investigation.
Some of the negative consequences included impact to business and vendor relationships and perceived standing among the local medical community. While the doctors were protected within the bounds of any employment or direct service contract they might have, they were not always protected with regard to any secondary contracts or professional investments.
We aren’t noting this study to dissuade people from taking the right action. However, we are pointing out that the path of the whistleblower isn’t always easy. Having a legal professional on your side can help you plan and navigate that path without as many negative consequences.
Source: US National Library of Medicine, “‘Don’t shoot the messenger’: the problem of whistleblowing in general practice,” Nigel Mathers, accessed Aug. 12, 2016