Topics: Whistleblower, Whistleblower Protection Act, Qui tam Pages: 5 (1739 words) Published: November 23, 2007
Sharon Watkins earned her 15 minutes of fame the honest way, as the Enron employee who blew the lid off of then CEO Ken Lay's debauchery. But for every celebrated whistleblower, there are hundreds who remain in the shadows. And for good Samaritans who do tell their tale, the price they pay can be exorbitant. Whistleblowers perform in many careers and are found at all levels of an organization: scientists and secretaries, lawyers and paralegals, managers and staff, security personnel and computer specialists, etc. They are as varied in age, ethnic background, education, profession, sex, and income as the population at large. Whistleblowing is a relatively recent entry into the vocabulary of politics and public affairs, although the type of behavior to which it refers is not wholly new. How is it defined? Whistleblowing refers to a warning issued by a member or former member of an organization to the public about a serious wrongdoing or danger created or concealed within the organization. In a genuine case of whistleblowing, the whistleblower would have to have unsuccessfully utilized all appropriate channels within the organization to right a wrong. Many view whistleblowing as an external action to an unresponsive organization and reporting more as an internal process, done through organizational channels. I believe one would have to unsuccessfully exhaust all the internal channels of communication before "going public." When whistleblowing occurs as defined, it is a morally courageous action. When all is said and done, the whistleblower must "blow the whistle" for the right moral reason and/or reasoning. The whistleblower him or herself must be carefully scrutinized. What are the personal and the professional reputations of the whistleblower? What is the motive driving the whistleblower? Is it to benefit the client or the organization, or is it a need for attention or revenge? Is the whistleblower's cause seen as legitimate and significant by trustworthy colleagues and friends? Is the whistleblower aware of the potential consequences of blowing the whistle and still willing to accept responsibility for actions taken? Unfortunately, during most of this century many people equated whistleblowers with tattle tales. For instance, until the early 1980s, legal indices often listed the law of whistleblowing under the word "snitch" or "informant." During the Nixon era, much of that negative attitude changed. With the advent of Watergate, the public began to recognize the service whistleblowers were providing to taxpayers at great risk to themselves. Further, whistleblowing impacts not just the whistleblower but also their family and friends. Although whistleblowers have many different backgrounds, skills, professions, interests, and experiences, their adversaries customarily paint whistleblowers in one-dimensional negative terms. Frequently, they are described as whining, disgruntled, problem employees with low standards and little or no talent, who are seeking publicity, money or special privileges for themselves. A favorite accusation is that they are not "team players." Often, their employers shamelessly accuse them of suffering from severe psychological problems, low morals, or serious defects in job performance. Contrary to such negative allegations by their detractors, research and scholarly writing conclude that whistleblowers usually are the opposite of how their foes describe them. The most consistent common denominators among whistleblowers are their ethics-driven reasons for whistleblowing, their whistleblowing experiences, and the resulting retaliation directed at them by their adversaries. Research has shown that whistleblowers usually are described as top performers and model employees before they commence whistleblowing. They are honest, hard working, upwardly-mobile individuals, who operate with moral codes. They are team players who believe they are pursuing issues affecting the...
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