Whistleblower protection has changed dramatically in the past 15 years, says Stephen M. Kohn, chair of the National Whistleblower Center. Writing in the international publication “Ethical Boardroom,” Kohn spells out the changes and what they mean to those on governing boards and in the C-suite.

This is all radically different than the whistleblowing depicted in popular culture. It has nothing to do with employee grievances or the stealing of national security secrets. Done correctly, an employer never learns the identity of the whistleblower and thus, traditional employment relations cases become relics of a time when whistleblowers lacked safe, confidential and effective reporting mechanisms.

These changes need to be embraced, not opposed. The issue is no longer the whistleblower, but whether a company will tolerate criminal activity in order to profit. Turning a blind eye to corruption can have disastrous consequences…Trying to silence whistleblowers is the biggest mistake any corporate executive can make.

Still, the rate of retaliation against employees for reporting wrongdoing doubled since 2013, according to the most recent report from The Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI), a non-profit organization. At the same time, an October report from the group found that employees are 15 times more likely to believe that their organizations reward ethical behavior when they get the message via “proactive communication” from upper management on issues like trust and ethical conduct.

Proactive communication is defined in the report as regularly delivering messages on company values, creating and celebrating ethical conduct and encouraging thoughtful, diverse opinions.


The Dodd-Frank Act: Protections for whistleblowers in commodities and securities cases.

The Internal Revenue Act whistleblower law protects those reporting violations of the tax laws or the underpayment of taxes.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Prohibits some payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining business.

The False Claims Act allows persons and entities with evidence of fraud against federal programs or contracts to sue the wrongdoer on behalf of the US government.