Observing a co-worker's reckless behavior is one thing; it becomes more stressful for an employee who observes reckless or fraudulent behavior by someone in authority over them. However, several federal and state laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who report practices by employers that threaten public health and safety or violate the law. Other laws prohibit retaliation against employees who file complaints about their own working conditions, including unsafe working conditions. Although the laws vary from state to state, anti-retaliation laws generally prohibit adverse actions such as termination, layoff, demotion, suspension, denial of benefits, reduction in pay, and discipline, when the adverse action is taken in retaliation for employees' reports of unsafe or unlawful practices.
A whistleblower policy is an important part of a healthcare organization's Code of Ethics. Healthcare organizations are encouraged to include their whistleblower policy in the employee handbook. It should be written in such a way that it encourages internal reporting. The policy must emphasize that reporting is confidential and anonymous. There should be a procedure for reporting (eg, a hotline number to call). Finally, the policy must guarantee that an employee will not be a victim of retaliation for reporting the misconduct.
If the issue is not addressed through the internal reporting mechanism, the whistleblower may need to report the concern anonymously to the institution's accrediting agency. The situation then must be addressed if patient, employee, or environmental safety is at risk.
What should be reported under a whistleblower policy
Suspected misconduct should be reported under a whistleblower policy. Types of misconduct include:
What should not be reported under a whistleblower policy
- Financial improprieties
- Failing to follow institutional policies
- Misuse of the organization's resources
- Failure to comply with legal requirements
- Breaches of ethical conduct
Personal grievances and complaints should not be reported using the whistleblower reporting mechanism. Human resources has a separate reporting mechanism for these issues.