Trend Watch 2012: Employers Rolling Out Whistleblower & Retaliation Training

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Littler Mendelson, P.C., the world’s largest employment and labor law firm, just released an interesting survey (and press release) – one that provides real insight into what lies ahead for employers in 2012:

  • 73% of respondents see whistleblowing and whistleblower retaliation as emerging risk areas.
  • 96% of survey respondents said that they are either very concerned (27%) or moderately concerned (69%) about whistleblower claims.

This is a sentiment echoed in the Fulbright survey discussed in my last blog post.

Why Are Employers So Concerned?

Employers are very familiar with retaliation claims in the employment law context; these claims have continued to soar – now representing the #1 claim type received by the EEOC.  And in the past year, the energy has spread:

  • New financial incentives for whistleblowers (up to 30% of an award exceeding $1 Million) under laws like Dodd-Frank motivate employees to go public with their concerns.
  • The SEC is actively encouraging whistleblowers to step forward and launched a new Office of the Whistleblower in August of 2011. According to SEC officials, the agency receives nearly 100 tips per day.  Check out their “Claim an Award” page if you want to see a list of pending claims.
  • 45% of employers in the Littler survey had experienced a whistleblower claim in the past 12 months.
  • 67% of employers in the Littler survey anticipate that these claims will increase over the next 1-2 years.

How Are Employers Meeting the Challenge?

Organizations are taking the bull by the horns and becoming more vocal about their values, expectations, and policies.  In 2011, employers took some rapid and decisive steps to help their organization better deal with the risk:

  • 13% of employers have modified their anti-retaliation policies.
  • 84% of employers have taken preventative steps to protect against unlawful retaliation claims.
  • 75% of employers have increased communication and training to employees about opportunities to report wrongdoing.
  • 46% of employers have increased communication and training to managers about how to handle employee allegations of wrongdoing.

And for 2012, these same employers are going to intensify their efforts:

  • 74% of employers are going to increase training and communication to employees.
  • 66% of employers are going to increase manager training and communication.
  • 59% are either conducting training in the next 12 months or plan to do so.
  • 27% are considering broadly training employees and managers.

Sources: Littler Survey; and SCCE (the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics) Survey Dodd-Frank: Big Headlines, Not-So-Big Impact

High-Quality, Legally Engineered Training

Employers recognize that they need to do a much better job communicating their organization’s values, as well as emphasizing every employee’s duty to pay attention and speak up. To get there, employers must teach employees not only do the right thing, but also that they are expected to report all suspected misconduct internally (so the organization can put an end to it early).

But to be effective, the training must be carefully crafted so it helps your organization rather than creating greater risk.

ELT’s legally engineered™ Whistleblowing, Reporting & Retaliation course, created in close collaboration with Littler, does just that. This newly released course is designed to bolster your internal compliance program and:

  • Educate employees about your organization’s values
  • Teach employees about your policies and their obligation to report suspected misconduct internally
  • Teach employees how to report suspected misconduct
  • Teach managers about handling complaints and preventing retaliation
  • Help establish important legal defenses

We can no longer assume that employees understand their duty to report, or that managers fully understand their obligations to effectively receive complaints, act quickly and prevent retaliation. Gone are the days of handing out a policy and asking (or hoping) that managers can bring it to life by sharing it with their employees.  In this new era of heightened whistleblowing and retaliation risk, dedicated and habitual Reporting & Retaliation training is a business imperative.


What do you have to say? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join a discussion group on Compliance Next.


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