Knowing the difference between a whistleblower and a disgruntled employee is important. You’ll be better able to determine whether a company remains compliant with laws or willingly violates them to get ahead. Here are some tips on how a whistleblower differs from a disgruntled employee.

Characteristics of Whistleblowers

A whistleblower is typically a well-educated, strongly engaged, high-performing employee in a mid- to senior-level position. They typically report a company’s wrongdoing internally rather than initially filing a report with a government agency like the SEC. A whistleblower is more interested in the fact that they potentially uncovered a large crime than in receiving a substantial monetary reward.

In contrast, a disgruntled employee is typically not as educated, engaged in their work, or interested in their performance level. They’re typically a lower-level employee who would rather run to an outside agency if the offense is impactful enough than report a problem through the proper internal channels. A disgruntled employee is more interested in being given a substantial amount of money than doing what’s best for other people.

Whistleblowers and Retaliation

A whistleblower may experience or be threatened by retaliation. For example, a whistleblower may have an adverse administrative decision brought against them, such as discipline, demotion or dismissal, or experience a form of harassment such as failure to renew a contract, lack of promotion, or loss of responsibilities. Even though retaliation is illegal in most workplaces, upper-level management may induce a cover up and/or try to discredit the whistleblower. The company may also use other methods to avoid negative publicity, expensive litigation and loss of business.

Conversely, having a disgruntled employee leave the company is typically viewed as a positive event. They most likely were unproductive, exhibited a negative attitude and brought down employee morale. The employee may run to the media to generate attention for a perceived wrongdoing to bring down the company’s image.

Whistleblowers and U.S. Law

Although a whistleblower is protected by U.S. law, the laws vary among industries. For example, a whistleblower working in the financial sector is protected by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. However, a whistleblower working for a company traded on the NYSE is protected by the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002. Also, a whistleblower typically has evidence that they engaged in a protected activity such as reporting a violation or testifying as a witness, their employer knew or believed they participated in the activity, and the whistleblower suffered adverse employment action as a result.

In contrast, a disgruntled employee typically engages in behavior that negatively affects their co-workers and has no basis for filing a lawsuit. The employee is more interested in blaming others for imagined injustices rather than substantial events.

Work With a Leading Financial Compliance Recruiter

Knowing the difference between a whistleblower and a disgruntled employee helps determine whether your company stays compliant with laws and regulations. For additional help with your financial compliance recruitment needs, contact CarterWill Search and Flex.

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