July 4, 2022

Volume XII, Number 185

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Refreshing Whistleblower Processes for the Remote Workplace: Best Practices

At the onset of COVID in 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that over a three-month period, there were a deluge of tips, complaints and possible referrals to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). More recently, the SEC has reported record whistleblower awards. And although the extent to which remote work has contributed to these statistics can be debated, these trends and the continued popularity of remote work create an opportunity for employers to reassess internal reporting processes and their compliance culture.

Employers should have effective and accessible reporting mechanisms, including anonymous reporting, so that remote employees can report concerns of every kind. Factors to consider include:

  • Adequate staffing and resources to handle complaints received in a prompt and adequate manner, including documentation of the complaint, response, and closure;

  • Ensuring follow up with complaining employees to ensure reporters understand their concerns have been reviewed and addressed;

  • Reviewing codes of conduct to ensure consideration of the remote work environment;

  • Top-down messaging about important compliance values;

  • Reviewing business practices to evaluate compliance gaps and opportunities for misconduct created by remote and hybrid work; and

  • Ensuring investigations can be conducted virtually as needed with appropriate privacy and confidentiality safeguards in place.

Employers should also create a culture of trust so individuals will report concerns. A low volume of internal reporting may indicate a lack of trust, while a high volume may indicate a healthier compliance culture.

Creating a culture of trust may be a particular challenge for some companies as they re-engage with workers who have been virtual for two years since the outset of the pandemic. Strategies include:

  • Providing more information to employees about key company events, including financial condition, to create a greater sense of security in or awareness about their positions. Transparency breeds trust.

  • Ensuring that remote employees are not feeling intimidated. Communication styles have changed. Employees may feel uncomfortable, for example, when managers hold one-sided meetings, e., only the employee is on camera and/or the frequency of employee/manager communications may have changed. Tweaks in management style in this “new” environment may be required to build and maintain trust.

In sum, a prudent employer keeps a pulse on the challenges of the remote work environment by re-assessing the effectiveness of its reporting process and evaluating its culture. A smart employer then takes positive action.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 101
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About this Author

Susan M. Corcoran, Jackson Lewis, fair credit reporting lawyer, Labor Policy Attorney
Principal

Susan M. Corcoran is a Principal in the White Plains, New York, office of Jackson Lewis, P.C. Ms. Corcoran is a seasoned employment counselor and litigator and is often thought of as the “go to” person on national workplace law issues for her clients.

She is one of the leaders of the firm’s Background Check Resource Group, and serves as a resource on fair credit reporting act issues, as well as “ban the box” strategies. She taught a graduate employment law class for many years at Manhattanville College and frequently speaks...

914-872-6871
Kristin L. Bauer, Jackson Lewis, employment agreements lawyer, non solicitation issues attorney
Principal

Kristin L. Bauer is a Principal in the Dallas, Texas, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation.

In addition to handling an active employment litigation docket, Ms. Bauer counsels management on preventive strategies, including termination decisions, investigations, employment agreements, non-compete and non-solicitation issues, wage and hour laws, policies and handbooks, and other issues affecting the workplace. She also provides advice and counsel to...

(214) 520-2400
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