One of the most difficult questions facing any potential whistleblower is deciding when they should come forward. There’s no doubt that whistleblowers put themselves at significant risk. Although there are laws in place to protect whistleblowers, recent years have seen officials at the highest levels of government come under attack for reporting wrongdoing.
Further complicating matters are the maze of laws applying to whistleblowers in the private sector. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces more than 20 whistleblower laws alone, to say nothing of separate laws in each state.
Many whistleblower protections are geared toward workers in industries that could directly threaten the public’s health and safety. Significant gaps exist in sectors where non-financial violations happen. However, this doesn’t mean that these violations have any less of an impact on the public interest. So, what is a potential whistleblower to do?
Legal guidance is crucial
We’ve covered filing internal reports and contacting the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on this blog before. These are still important steps that most whistleblowers should consider if they are concerned about a company’s potentially illegal activity. However, seeking legal guidance at the outset can help ensure that you receive the full advantage of laws designed to protect and compensate whistleblowers.
Keep in mind that if the company finds out you’ve been seeking legal counsel, they could view it as an escalation in the confrontation. Nonetheless, whistleblower laws have been proven effective in shielding people’s identities.
Deciding to blow the whistle is a big step that is not without risks. However, risks also bring the potential for rewards. You should discuss your case with a skilled legal professional who can help you decide the best path for moving forward.