A whistleblower program is a program which allows employees to report violations of the law to a government agency or a superior without fear of retaliation. Many nations have such programs to ensure that workers feel comfortable about reporting violations. Some companies also have whistleblower policies in place to encourage their employees to speak up about problems in the company. These programs appear to be highly beneficial for employees and society in general, since employees may notice problems which could become serious issues if they are not addressed.
Under a whistleblower program, an employee who reports a workplace violation such as unsafe working conditions or sexual harassment can do so without the fear of retaliation. A company may not fire or lay off a whistleblower. Whistleblowers also cannot be penalized with reductions in wages, short hours, or denial of benefits. If an employer does penalize a whistleblower, it may face serious legal consequences.
Unsafe working conditions are a major concern of many nations. A whistleblower program is used to ensure that people are not asked to work in dangerous or unsafe conditions, and to encourage companies to train their employees properly and to observe prevailing laws about workplace safety. Workers can also report report violations of contract and pay agreements, and they may report on things like improperly balanced books or tax evasion as well.
Many government agencies have a whistleblower hotline so that people can call to report such problems. These agencies may ask for the name of the whistleblower to assist in their investigations. If an employer becomes aware of an employee's role as a whistleblower and attempts to retaliate, the employee may file a claim.
In some cases, a whistleblower program has risen to prominence because a whistleblower has revealed serious systemic problems with a business or industry. In these instances, the actions of whistleblowers have sometimes led to major reforms in law or policy which have improved working conditions overall. Whistleblowers have also identified companies in financial trouble, potentially saving investors significant sums of money.
Not all whistleblowers are protected by a whistleblower program. In some cases, someone may choose to speak out about an issue whether or not he or she is protected. These whistleblowers generally believe that their actions will carry economic or social benefit, and they therefore feel obligated to alert a specific agency or the community in general.