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Whistleblower investigations: What you need to know

On Behalf of | Sep 16, 2019 | Whistleblower Protection

When whistleblowers file their claim, it might take some time before their initial report leads to an investigation. This can often be frustrating for whistleblowers who feel uncertain about their position at work, or even in their life, after filing their complaint.

Regardless of how long it takes, whistleblowers must be prepared for the investigation of their claim. After all, they will be expected to play an active role in it. So, here are some essential things that whistleblowers should know.

What should you know about the investigation?

Whistleblower investigations primarily consist of interviews. Investigators will conduct interviews with the whistleblower, their colleagues, their employer as well as any other witnesses. They will often ask questions such as:

  • What happened and who was involved
  • How the whistleblower reported the issue
  • If the whistleblower has experienced retaliation since reporting
  • What happens daily at the workplace

The specific questions will vary depending on the situation. But investigators usually attempt to gather as much information as they can about the claims and the context of the workplace.

Investigators will also consider the evidence included in the report. That is why it is helpful for whistleblowers to collect and preserve any evidence relevant to their claims, including anything from emails to business contracts.

Two important things to know about the investigator of your claim

Every investigation will be different. However, the role and responsibilities of the investigator usually remain the same. There are two critical things to note about the investigators who evaluate whistleblower claims:

  1. The investigator is usually a neutral third-party official. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), they do not—and should not—represent or show preference to any specific party involved in the claim. Their only goal is to collect the facts of the situation.
  2. In 2015, OSHA determined that investigators must only meet a standard of “reasonable cause” by the end of their investigation. This essentially means that whistleblowers do not have to prove concretely that their claims are true, as they would in a courtroom. It is only necessary to prove that the claims were made in good faith and that there is a reasonable cause to believe that the employer or responsible party violated the law.

It can be incredibly challenging to navigate a whistleblower investigation. However, the adage of “knowledge is power” is often correct. Whistleblowers should take the time to understand the investigation process, so they can prepare themselves.