Retaliation against corporate whistleblowers is at an all-time high, according to Stephen Kohn of the National Whistleblowers Center.
In addition, Kohn said, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign against the False Claims Act, one of the country’s most effective whistleblower laws.
The Ethics Resource Center says that 45 percent of U.S. workers have observed misconduct at their workplace, and 65 percent reported the misconduct. Twenty-two percent of those who reported misconduct experienced some sort of retaliation, up from a 10 to 11 percent retaliation rate in a 2007 ERC survey. The ERC says, “The more an employee persists in reporting a concern, the more likely he/she is to experience retaliation,” Kohn reports on the Whistleblower Protection Blog.
“Not only is retaliation on the rise nationally, it is rapidly becoming an issue even at companies with a demonstrated commitment to ethics,” according to the ERC. The group says senior managers face the greatest risk, as retaliation against them specifically has increased significantly. Many whistleblowers have been fired, or quit under duress after making a report. Others were demoted or experienced reduced job responsibilities and unfavorable assignments, a study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found. Some whistleblowers switch industries in order to escape harassment. The study concludes that, given the risks to whistleblowers, “the surprising part is not that most employees do not talk; it is that some talk at all.”
The False Claims Act was passed during the Civil War to punish war profiteers. A provision of the act allows an individual with knowledge of fraud or wrongdoing to sue on behalf of the government and share in any settlement. This provision has been important in pursuing cases of health care fraud and fraud and wrongdoing by federal contractors and in the financial services industry.