The pandemic has changed our lives in countless ways in the last few years. Some of the changes were predictable, but others were less so. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was a deluge of whistleblower tips, complaints and referrals, which likely is a surprise to many. It may be partly due to the SEC’s increasingly generous awards and may also reflect that there were more remote workers during the pandemic. Perhaps it is just a matter of not being in the office providing a different or outsider’s point of view.
Regardless of the motivations, employers concerned about whistleblowers should take note of the increased numbers and make changes to the internal reporting process to better address remote workers.
Factors to consider
These can avoid perceptions of indifference that may prompt employees to notify regulatory and government agencies:
- Adequate staffing: It is not enough for a department to handle complaints. It needs to be able to review documents, respond in a timely and adequate fashion and provide closure.
- Following up: The company should ensure that the employees feel heard and that their concerns are appropriately addressed.
- Review and update codes of conduct: This should address onsite and remote work.
- Review and update business practices: There may be unexpected compliance issues that need to be addressed. Less physical oversight can also lead to misconduct.
- Top-down messaging: These issues should be acknowledged and addressed by leadership.
- Tools for investigation: Those who conduct the investigations should have the tools they need while still heeding appropriate privacy and confidentiality safeguards.
A proactive approach avoids bigger problems
Employees who believe their concerns are being ignored or arbitrarily dismissed may take the next step and report their findings to the authorities. Credible claims provide documentation, evidence and a high level of insight into the corporate misbehavior or misdeeds. Employers who effectively address employees’ claims enable them to manage improper behavior before authorities get involved or, depending upon the circumstances, reduce the penalties.