Global HR Hot Topic Launches Global Whistle-Blower Hot Line.
Domestically within the United States, launching new work rules, employee handbooks and codes of conduct can trigger legal issues, especially in unionized workplaces. Then, in the US, a whistleblower’s call to a workplace hotline triggers a separate cluster of legal issues, such as regarding internal investigations, employee discipline and whistleblower retaliation. But American employers, even unionized ones, that offer a stand-alone workplace whistleblower hotline to US staff rarely face blowback. Indeed, offering employee report “procedures” stateside affirmatively complies with a mandate in Sarbanes-Oxley and is a recommended “best practice” response to the Dodd-Frank whistleblower bounty.
A “workplace whistleblower hotline” comprises three basic components: (1) a communication that encourages (or forces) employees to denounce colleagues suspected of wrongdoing, that explains how to submit a denunciation and (often) that guarantees informants confidentiality or anonymity and non-retaliation; (2) a medium or media (channel or channels) for accepting denunciations, such as an email address, a web link, a postal mail address, a telephone number or some combination; and (3) protocols/procedures and scripts by which a hotline responder, often a specialist outsourced company, processes denunciations and passes them onto someone at the hotline-sponsor company to investigate. (Internal investigations into whistleblower denunciations raise tough legal issues of their own, particularly in the cross border context, but investigations into specific denunciations are completely separate from the pre-investigatory launch and operation of a workplace whistleblower hotline. As to cross-border internal investigations, see our Global HR Hot Topic for October, November and December 2009.) Read the full article and see slide show by Whit and Case LLP here.