Retaliation against Whistleblowers: It’s Not Like in the Movies…

If you or a close family member has contemplated “blowing the whistle” on your company or organization, you may simultaneously experience a number of conflicting emotions:

Fear
You might worry about your safety, your family’s safety, your employability, the company’s reputation, your ability to provide for your family, and more.

Excitement
Whistleblowers often wait months, if not years, to “do something” about abuses, environmental malfeasance, corporate rule breaking, etc. When they finally make the decision to call management out on their misdeeds, that decision can feel tremendously empowering. It takes great courage to rise up and speak your mind, especially if you face a “David vs. Goliath” situation.

Uncertainty/confusion
What are your rights as a whistleblower? What compensation can you expect if, for instance, your case is a Qui Tam case? What are the right steps and processes for you to take to protect your legal rights, protect your job (if possible), and protect your reputation? Whom can you trust to guide you to proper resolution and answer your questions along the way.

Anger/disappointment
As you initiate the whistleblowing process, you may experience waves of anger, disappointment, resentment, and sadness as you discover that once close friends and associates either turn their back on you, fail to offer effective support, or even side with “the enemy.”

Renewed hope
On the flip side, you might be surprised by the gracious and generous behaviors, gestures, and attitudes of people in your company – and elsewhere – who look after you, protect your reputation, and even join you in your fight for justice.

A Whistleblower Case May be Different Than What You’re Picturing In Your Mind
Whistleblowers, as typically depicted in movies and television, are often physically threatened. Maybe an angry boss or co-conspirator throws a rock through the window or commits nefarious and highly personal attacks. But these kinds of behaviors are far rarer than you might think.

On the flip side, you might not be prepared for the extent of the “shunning” you could experience as a whistleblower. Friends at work might feel intense social pressure to distance themselves from you and even to side with management against you. The social/emotional consequences of being shunned can be hard to take, even if you prepare in advance.

Moreover, studies by groups like the Ethics Resource Center suggest that retaliation against whistleblowers may be increasing. In 2007, the ERC found that whistleblowers were retaliated against 12% of the time; in 2011, whistleblowers were retaliated against 22% of the time.

For help preparing yourself and your family for a whistleblower case, or to respond effectively to retaliation, discrimination, or harassment, connect with the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum. Call the firm at (212) 688-5640, or learn more about our services at www.jhllp.com.