Beware, whistleblowers. Once you attempt to point out wrongdoing, your company will more than likely come back at you hard. And when they do, be careful because the retaliation will be stealth-like. Protecting whistleblowers has become a priority in the Dodd-Frank era, so they don’t berate you, or fire you, or demote you. Instead, they subtly send you home to work remotely in a professional purgatory, removed from the office workspace to which you’ve grown accustomed; they give you no projects, nothing to work on; and they turn your coworkers and friends against you.
Sound farfetched? Tell that to Jack Palmer, an Infosys employee whose tale was recently chronicled by Julia Preston at the New York Times.
Almost a year and a half ago, Mr. Palmer became aware that Infosys had been deliberately and improperly acquiring the wrong visas for their foreign employees. You’re not going to believe this, but the types of visas Infosys wrongly obtained were much cheaper. In other words, Infosys defrauded the government out of a great deal of money. Mr. Palmer filed a report through internal channels saying as much. The report was immediately leaked at Infosys, making him an instant pariah; he even received death threats from fellow employees.
Furthermore, Infosys revoked all of his projects and left him without the significant portion of his income that was commission-based. They sent him home to “work” remotely, where he has essentially gone stir-crazy. He has nothing to work on, he fears for his life, and yet he can’t quit and get another job because his professional reputation is ruined. Score one for the Infosys executives.
As for Mr. Palmer, his outlook on being a whistleblower is mixed. The court ruled in his favor in initial proceedings, but he remains stuck at home with no real job and a severely decreased income. He is committed to remedying Infosys’s transgressions, but says “it will be hard for me to advise anyone to blow the whistle” given his experience. But he doesn’t say he wouldn’t do it again. It’s hard, it’s risky, and it’s easier to sit on your hands. When Mr. Palmer or some other brave soul gets a big fat check and there is a hue and cry over the amount being excessive, remember how much risk these folks take on. Remember that what they do is not easy and while the reward is substantial, it is usually deserved and then some.
For would-be whistleblowers, be aware of the risks, be careful, but don’t be deterred from doing what is right.
Read more from attorney Steven Berk at his blog, The Corporate Observer, which focuses on current legal and consumer protection issues. He is the managing partner at Berk Law PLLC.