Articles Posted in Whistleblowers

The BBC — England’s largest, most respected news service — has been a breeding ground for sexual harassment, according to a scathing internal document called the Rose Review.

A breathtaking article recently published in the Guardian — “BBC’s climate of fear let bullies thrive, report into sexual harassment finds” — depicts a toxic workplace culture at the BBC.

According to the Guardian: “the BBC’s [internal] report into sexual harassment and bullying is a damning criticism of a culture in which staff were left terrified of some senior managers and on-screen stars, where ‘known bullies’ were allowed to prosper and even be promoted because they were perceived to be untouchable.”

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.

The U.S Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has announced a major coup, after a federal crackdown on illegal practices at Italian restaurants on Long Island.

Investigators found wage and hour violations galore and managed to recover $2.3 million in back wages owed to nearly 600 workers at 46 Italian restaurants and pizzerias. The Department of Labor also leveled more than $200,000 in civil penalties against the employers for repeated violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers apparently skirted overtime requirements, falsified payroll, and tried to escape from tax liabilities.

The Director of the U.S. DOL’s Long Island District Office, Irv Miljoner, said that investigators found not only violations of minimum wage law and overtime rules, but also a massive number of employees being paid off the books. Some restaurateurs countered that the improper pay structure was necessary for them to compete – they argued that if their restaurants paid fairly, they would have to raise prices, and thus they would lose business to competitors.

Last week, an Employment Standards Branch Division in Canada awarded $229,000 to 57 tree planters for wage and hour violations – including vacation pay and overtime owed.

The workers for Khaira Enterprises allegedly spent several months last year laboring under grueling conditions. They were grossly underpaid, forced to toil without being adequately fed, compelled to share dirty toilets and work up to 15 hours a day. In addition, employment discrimination and harassment may have occurred. According to a report in the Vancouver Sun: “one man said an employer threw a knife at him… they also complained of racial slurs.”

Here are some ghastly highlights from the Vancouver Sun story (January 4, 2011) about the wage and hour violations at Khaira Enterprises:

On July 15th, Congress passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – H.R. 4173 – which provided a number of additional protections for whistleblowers, including a qui tam provision that rewards whistleblowers monetarily for alerting authorities to fraud in the stock and commodities industries. The Act also strengthened anti-retaliatory measures for workers who reveal fraud to commodities agencies and/or the SEC and who give info to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (a new organization established by the law).

Prior the passage of H.R. 4173, whistleblowers at rating organizations like Standard & Poor’s lacked effective protection. The bill fixes the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) to close loopholes, so that employees even at rating agencies can feel free to come forward with allegations of fraud or misconduct. The Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, Stephen Kohn, sung praises of the legislation. According to an official PR statement, Kohn said that “[H.R.4173] is one of the most important advances in whistleblower legislation to date…the anti-retaliation laws of the past have not adequately protected the public interest because employees remain afraid to make disclosures.”

Kohn also noted that the whistleblower system must have built-in incentives; otherwise, employees might be tempted to allow fraud to go unchecked because it would not be in their financial interest to come forward. While whistleblower advocates generally celebrated this bill, others in the community want further action to protect federal employees, so that they too can feel freer to come forward and expose fraud and corruption and bad practices.