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HR Policy: How To Handle Joe Paterno Whistleblower Situations

By November 11, 2011February 19th, 2015No Comments

iStock_000017197942XSmallPenn State’s former head football coach Joe Paterno is a good example of an extremely ineffective (to say the least) whistleblower.

Whistleblowing is the exposure of misconduct (illegal or dishonest actions) by a fellow employee or superior in an organization.  The person who reports the misconduct is known as a “whistleblower”.  Misconduct may be reported internally or in the case of serious, unlawful misconduct such as that occurred at Penn State, should be reported to external law enforcement agencies.

Most public companies have complaint systems in place that provide detailed guidelines and options on how to make a complaint as well as a “whistleblower hotline” telephone number for reporting misconduct.  Private companies and small business often do not provide this information or any reporting options to employees, and as such, employees are left in the dark on how to proceed or who to turn to in the event that misconduct occurs.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Adminstration (OSHA) oversees the Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program which protects whistleblowers from organization retaliation that may include firing, demoting, reassignment, blacklisting, intimidating, etc.  It’s 21 statutes are designed to protect whistleblowers in just about any instance.

All organizations, large or small should have a set of HR guidelines in place which outlines the action to take internally and externally when there is suspected dishonest or unlawful activites.  Just like a Sexual Harassment Policy, which every company should also have in place, “Whistleblower Guidelines” help protect other employees, the public and the reputation of a company from an individual’s wrongdoing.

For more comprehensive guidance on all things HR, contact HR Knowledge, Inc. at or call at 508-339-1300.

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