Employees of government or private organizations may feel that their employers are acting unethically or illegally. The employer may be a health care provider who fails to comply with proper sanitation regulations for instruments or equipment. Or, the health care provider may be billing Medicare or Medicaid for attending physician services when, actually, resident physicians are providing the services – at a lower rate. The employer may be an educational institution that is accepting full tuition from government loans but providing only adjunct professors or trainees for lectures, class lessons or student counseling.
An employer may be purposely taking tax deductions to which they are not entitled. Or it may be writing-off equipment purchases that never occurred. Or it may be accepting government funds for an employment program but failing to hire new employees.
In these instances, the employers may, in effect, be stealing from the government or private individuals. Or the employer may be endangering injured or sick patients.
When employers engage in unethical or illegal conduct, occasionally their employees are deeply disturbed by the employer’s conduct. The employees may take action by protesting the conduct internally. Most organizations warrant that there will be no retaliation against employees who report an employer’s wrongful conduct.
But often the employee realizes that employers may not honor such warranties. Employees may be subjected to reprisal in the form of demotion, unfavorable work assignments or even dismissal.
The federal government – and many state governments – recognize the potential danger to employees who “blow the whistle” on their employers. Those governments protect employees who report an employer’s illegal conduct and, in some cases, provide a reward for a whistleblowing employee. For example, under the federal “False Claims Act,” the government may assume the prosecution of an employee’s complaint with the result that the employer must halt the conduct and pay a significant penalty. The employee may receive a percentage of the proceeds. And the employee may also earn a sense of pride that the employer’s practices were stopped and an example was set that might prevent other employers from engaging in similar antics.