Many New York companies encourage employees to report their complaints or concerns internally. In the past, some companies even required it. After all, how else can companies act on those concerns and improve?
Internal reporting is still a common step that whistleblowers take nowadays. However, requiring it is also sometimes a tactic used to silence whistleblowers so that businesses can protect their image.
So, is it possible for whistleblowers to forgo internal reporting?
External whistleblowing is protected too
Whistleblower protection laws protect anyone who decides to report wrongdoing, whether they choose to report internally or externally. While most people do try to file internal reports before making their concerns public, there are times when whistleblowers might want to report externally, including if:
- The actions are illegal: If the report involves serious crimes, whistleblowers could go directly to law enforcement, especially if there is no time to file an internal report. Some illegal actions, such as chemical dumping, could place the public in immediate danger and cause serious damage.
- The person to report to is the one committing the offense: There are ways around this issue when reporting internally. For example, whistleblowers could report to supervisors above their own. However, this is another case where if whistleblowers do not feel safe reporting internally, they can report their concerns to the government or law enforcement.
- The whistleblower has reason to fear retaliation: Has someone else on the job suffered retaliation for reporting a concern in the past? Whistleblower laws protect individuals against retaliation. But if whistleblowers worry they might suffer retaliation, they can file a report externally.
If you do report internally, what should you do?
Depending on an individual’s circumstances, they might have to file an internal report first. Or, they might decide that is the best way to move forward. Regardless, there are some measures that whistleblowers can take to protect themselves in the internal reporting process.
A few questions whistleblowers should consider before making an internal report include:
- Is there a supervisor the employee knows they can trust?
- Does the company provide an anonymous hotline to report issues?
- Are there any colleagues who also want to report, so they have support?
Unfortunately, internal whistleblowing can increase the risks of workplace retaliation. So, if whistleblowers must move forward with an internal report, then they should also be aware of the forms of retaliation they could experience. They should also keep a record of any adverse actions or retaliation they endure after filing their report, so they can take legal action.