An individual who discloses information, either internally (e.g., manager, compliance officer, hotline) or externally (e.g., regulatory agencies, media, lawmakers, watch dog organizations) that he/she reasonably believes evidences a violation of a law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
A whistleblower is:
- Often a current/former worker with credible information about wrongdoing/illegality witnessed on the job.
- Someone who discloses issues that require change to comply with law or to protect public interest.
Whistleblowing is a serious and often complex matter. Make sure that you know the facts before acting.
- Contact the Compliance Office, the safety/compliance hotline, or
use chain of command. This is consistent with advice provided by the
Office of Inspector General, Department of Justice, and U.S. Sentencing
- Seek to resolve issues internally before involving a government agency to oversee the process.
- Support an organizational culture of transparency and continuous improvement. Workers have an important role in ensuring safe/quality care and a duty to report suspected wrongdoing/ violations.
- EXCEPTION: Securities law violations - Anti-Retaliation Protections only extend to workers who have reported securities law violations externally to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Organizational Compliance/Human Resources documents should not limit the worker’s ability to:
- File charges/complaints with any federal, state, or local governmental agency or commission.
- Limit the worker’s right to communicate with any government agency or participate in any investigation or proceeding that such an agency may conduct.
- A healthcare organization’s code of conduct, compliance policies and compliance training should promote internal communication and specify that workers have a duty and right to report wrongdoing and legal violations (without retribution or retaliation).
If an illegal or unethical practice is identified, reserve judgment until adequate documentation is collected
- Individual(s) engaged in unethical or illegal conduct will not welcome inquiry into their practice.
- Collect data to substantiate the claim; remember that you are not protected from retaliation in a whistle-blower situation until you blow the whistle.
- Blowing the whistle means that you report your concern(s) to the national and/or state agency responsible for regulation of the organization for which you work; criminal activity includes reports to law enforcement agencies.
- Reporting recommendations: put complaint(s) in writing; document objectively; retain documentation of events, including all interactions related to the whistle-blowing situation.
- Seek counsel of someone you trust outside of the situation to provide an objective perspective.
- Consult with WSNA or legal counsel, if possible, before acting to determine how best to document/communicate concern(s).