Many laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. Whistleblowing can benefit society and expose unsafe work environments. On the other hand, employer retaliation could severely damage the employee and the company.
There are steps companies can take to reduce the risk of a lawsuit, such as:
- Create an anti-retaliation policy. Having a complaint policy or anti-retaliation policy isn’t mandatory by law, but it’s still a good idea. Train your employees on what type of reporting conduct is encouraged. Equally, educate on prohibited behavior. Clearly display this policy. Also, implement it into the company’s code of conduct. Both the company and the employees should abide by it.
- Encourage communication. Internal issues are oftentimes fixable if the company responds correctly. However, problems go unresolved when employees are afraid to communicate. Your employees should feel comfortable about reporting wrongdoing that could harm the company and other employees. If an employee voices a complaint, be sure to treat them equally and fairly.
- Don’t look the other way. Simply stated, a credible internal complaint deserves a thoughtful investigation. Oftentimes, the issue can reach new levels if a company ignores the valid complaint. In addition, lack of response could look suspicious.
- Stay organized. It’s important for companies to stay on top of pressing employee matters. Complaints and reports should be well-documented. Additionally, thoroughly document any investigations, including evidence and actions involved in the process. Documentation and evidence helps explain why you made certain decisions. It’s also beneficial to have in the event of a retaliation claim.
- Be aware of disciplining. There’s a chance an employee files a report, and weeks or months later is reprimanded for unrelated misconduct. It’s vital that companies are careful about how they handle misconduct with employees who have a history of filing reports. Collect evidence to support your decision, and effectively communicate these reasons to the employee. Communicate with them exactly why they are being called out.