WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION EDUCATION

In December, 2004 TIME magazine designated three corporate whistleblowers its “Persons of the Year.” In another recent article, Business Week admonished corporate managers to “brace themselves” for the impact of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Sarbanes-Oxley, enacted in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals, requires a radical rethinking of how corporations respond to whistleblowers and handle employees’ reports of misconduct.

Indeed, as Business Week has observed it is as imperative today that corporations educate the ranks of management about the whistleblower protection provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley as it was a decade ago to educate them about sexual harassment. The failure to do so can result not only in civil liability for backpay, damages, and attorneys fees, but in an erosion of public confidence in the corporation, as well as possible criminal sanctions.

Similar concerns exist for agencies of the federal government. A new law, the NO FEAR Act, requires all federal agencies to educate their workforces about whistleblower protection. Agencies that fail to take this mandate seriously may find themselves politically embarrassed and the subject of unwanted Congressional attention when high profile whistleblowers come forward with charges of retaliation.

Bernabei & Kabat is available to help both corporate and federal government clients address these challenges by helping them develop policies to facilitate internal disclosures by their employees and train their workforces about the law. A comprehensive computer based training program about whistleblower protection is currently being developed. In addition, Lynne Bernabei is available to conduct training and provide advice about compliance with whistleblower protection laws.