Why You Shouldn’t Fear Retaliation When Using a Compliance Hotline

June 23, 2022
Fear of retaliation isn’t just an employee issue. When misconduct continues to hide away within the (metaphorical) workplace corners, the quality of the company culture declines.   About 41% of workplace misconducts are reported and nearly 60% of all wrongdoings fail to surface, according to Gartner, Inc. But why do employees refrain from reporting misconduct? The most logical conclusion? They feel their career can be jeopardized if a manager, supervisor, or any other colleague they report against comes to know about it. The U.S. Equal Opportunity for Employment Commission (EEOC) cites workplace retaliation as one of the most common charges in 2019. Addressing retaliation concerns doesn’t only help the employee. It helps an organization’s culture thrive in the long run. If neglected, however, retaliation pitfalls can prove insidious for a company.  When employees are too afraid to report anything, wrongdoing continues to fester and increase in number, valuable talent steps off the company premises for good, the media spreads leaked or unaddressed retaliation news like wildfire, and the overall reputation of your company slumps.  To help encourage every employee to report any wrongdoings, it’s critical to stress the anonymity of your compliance hotline. When the employees know they can report their concerns without anybody knowing, they can leave all hesitation and fear behind and “do the right thing.”

What Is Retaliation? Why is it the Biggest Reporting Roadblock?

There is typically a power differential at play when retaliation at the workplace emerges. Simply put, retaliation happens when an employee with power misuses their power to harm another employee on the lower rung of the company ladder. You could call retaliation a form of revenge or retribution exerted to negatively impact the victim’s professional advancement within the company. For instance, an employee might face a hostile work environment simply because they reported a complaint against their manager.  What triggers retaliation? Simple, when an employee does something and the other person (for instance, their supervisor) doesn’t approve of it or has an issue with it. Retaliation can take a subtle or a blatant form and often requires immediate investigation.

How Retaliation Unfolds In A Business Setting

The EEOC’s report for the fiscal year 2020 revealed that about 55.8% of employees faced retaliation in the workplace. The cases of retaliation rose by 2% between 2019 and 2021. Retaliation became the number one reason why employees continued to stay quiet when witnessing any misconduct.  When employees refuse to report their issues, misconduct in the workplace keeps amplifying at an incredible pace until they explode into a full-blown crisis. Here’s how retaliation can manifest in a business setting:
  • Ostracization from workplace activities like meetings, group lunches, work-related decisions, or any other forms of communications.
  • Increased workload
  • Shifts scheduled at inconvenient times
  • Demotion, discharging an employee from the job, and denying benefits. 
  • Verbal Abuse from coworkers and supervisors. For instance, when you’ve raised a complaint against your manager and they publicly humiliate you even though you’ve done nothing wrong. 
  • Post-employment Retaliation. For instance, a supervisor either supplies flawed information or no information when a departing employee uses their name as a reference.

What Anti-Retaliation Provisions Protect You

According to the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, companies are required to deploy an efficient compliance program that creates a safe environment for employees to report any misconduct they witness or experience. In other words, for a business to remain in compliance with any of the state or federal laws, it is necessary for them to put an anti-retaliation program in place.  There are several state and federal laws that extend anti-retaliation protection to any employee who reports corporate misconduct. Typically, a majority of large organizations are subject to one or more laws of anti-retaliation provisions. 
  • The False Claims Act: This act ensures the protection of employees of government contractors. When these employees report their employers for over-charging the federal government, the False Claims Act prohibits any kind of retaliation against the reporting employee.
  • The Equal Pay Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibit several types of workplace discrimination. In addition, these laws also prohibit acts of retaliation against any employee who reports discrimination claims under these very laws. 
  • The Dodd-Frank Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act prohibit retaliation against individuals who report any form of financial misconduct in the workplace. Let’s take corporate bribery, for instance, which violates the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). If an employee reports any FCPA concern to law enforcement and ends up losing their promotion due to retaliation, they can file an anti-retaliation complaint under the Dodd-Frank Act or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Final Words

Each one of us has a role to play when the time comes to confront workplace misconduct. From CEOs to new hires – everyone in the company needs to actively support colleagues who become the targets of retaliation and leave no stone unturned to curb it.  Putting an anonymous compliance hotline in place, encouraging or incentivizing the employees to speak up, and making efficient use of data from the reports helps organizations take small but steady steps towards a culture that is free of retaliation. Employees, especially, are a massive source of valuable information that uncovers every form of misconduct lingering within the workforce. With a solid anonymous hotline and an army of provisions ready to offer protection against retaliation, employees must not hesitate to report every misconduct they see or face.  If you want to offer a “retaliation shield” to every employee wanting to report, you can explore the anonymous hotline services ComplianceLine offers.