Protecting Whistleblowers Must Include Social and Legal Protection
While we all believe in business and government working for our benefit on some level, the reality is that you can’t count on that being the case at all times. In fact, plenty of businesses and government agencies eagerly break the rules if they can. Or, perhaps more charitably, people within those business and government offices will break the rules if they think they aren’t being watched.
An unfortunate amount of effort is put into some businesses and government offices in finding ways around the law and around accountability. This is the reason whistleblowers are so important. Often, whistleblowers come in for a whole lot of blowback. They may reveal things we don’t really want to face, and they may cost businesses or governments a lot of money to recover face, pay fines, or restore their processes to the legal level. Whistleblowers, then, are an inconvenience to a lot of people, and yet what they do is invaluable. That’s why we have to protect them.
All too often, we let whistleblowers down in multiple ways. In the first case, we don’t protect them legally. Even though, as the whistleblowing lawyers at the point out, there are laws in place to protect people in such an event, often, the law isn’t used to its full advantage to provide that legal protection. The reason for this is largely because of the second level: our social reaction.
While in theory we probably all laud whistleblowers, those negative consequences often make many of us turn on them. Perhaps they embarrass our political party or people we support in power in government. Perhaps they harm a major local business that may result in layoffs or raised prices. On the surface, then, from our limited perspective, we might see the whistleblower as an enemy.
And yet, that is simply not the case. Change the political party and consider the business in the next town over, and you’d clearly be glad to see the whistle blown on that operation. That’s all the more true because of the kinds of things whistleblowers expose, such as (once again, according to Melton Law Firm): tax violations, embezzlement, fraud, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, and unlawful billing. Those are major issues, and only some of the most common ones whistleblowers expose.
But they won’t get the protection they need (and they also will probably stop coming forward) if we don’t all come together to insist they get the full protection of the law and the full support of their communities.
In these partisan times, it’s easy to only support those who benefit your beliefs or your immediate position, but we need to see beyond that and remember to support those who are doing an absolute good for our society. That’s why we have to make sure whistleblowers continue to come forward and they continue to be supported, both at the community level and at the legal level.