More than just Big Brother is watching you. Your employees are watching too, and can use the protections of a new whistleblower law to protect their jobs if they report any kind of wrongdoing by your business.
The new whistleblower law is included as a tiny piece of the massive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”). Employees of any company that is a recipient of any stimulus money provided by ARRA are protected from job terminations if the employee discloses a problem involving stimulus funds to a supervisor or an enforcement agency. The protection applies when the employee reasonably believes he/she is disclosing a problem related to stimulus funds, such as:
- Mismanagement or waste; or
- Danger to public health or safety; or
- Abuse of authority; or
- Violation of a law or regulation governing a grant or contract relating to stimulus funds.
Companies that may receive stimulus funds include healthcare companies, especially technology providers in the healthcare field, airports, alternative energy companies, contractors rebuilding infrastructure, companies retrofitting closed industrial facilities, medical researchers, scientists, libraries, schools, shelters, and many other businesses. Therefore the employees of these companies may have a new and unprecedented level of employment protection from the ARRA whistleblower regulations.
What should a company expecting to or already receiving stimulus funds do in response to this whistleblower liability?
- Hire and train a quality control expert or contract administrator to oversee the efficient and safe use of the stimulus funds.
- Prepare ethics guidelines for the handling of funds and the work to be accomplished and have every employee sign off on them.
- Train your managers and supervisors to immediately report any complaints about efficiency, public health, contractual violations, etc. from their employees to the quality control officer.
- Be very careful about terminating employees. Document all reasons for terminations. If an employee has made complaints inside or outside of the company, talk to an employment lawyer about your company’s exposure to whistleblower liability before you terminate the employee.