What to Address When a Whistleblower Encounters Retaliation
Anonymity is the core of whistleblowing system, which provides a chance to protect whistleblowers from any retaliation – termination, harassment, pay cuts, negative evaluations, losing out on a promotion, etc. However, anonymity is not a silver bullet of retaliation. According to Miceli, majority of internal whistleblowers who use external or public channels also have blown the whistle internally and suffered retaliation (qtd. in Lipman). Whistleblower protection should involve a procedure to address retaliation claims. The whistleblower protection is essential as failing to do it will discourage other whistleblowers from raising their concerns.
Lipman, in his book titled Whistleblowers: Incentives, Disincentives, and Protection Strategies, the best practice of addressing retaliation is having an independent counsel to investigate any retaliation – both subtle and direct – claimed by a whistleblower. For example, if a whistleblower is a threat with termination, any decision to terminate the employment of a legitimate whistleblower should be approved by independent directors. Depending on whistleblowing policies of the corporation, the independent counsel can be an audit committee appointed by the board of commissioners.
One of the responsibilities of independent counsel is to investigate if the retaliation is justified. It is imperative that internal audit committee is able to deliver independent and non-subjective judgment over the retaliation by conducting a fair investigation. With the help of an independent counsel, the independent directors can make a fair decision over such termination. An effective whistleblowing system should make prevention and anti-retaliation proactive instead of discouraging the aspect of raising concerns.
Lipman, Frederick D. 2012. Whistleblowers: Incentives, Disincentives, and Protection Strategies. Wiley Corporate F &A
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