Whistleblower Claims? Get HR Involved Early, Labor Lawyer Says

HR needs to be involved in whistleblower investigations just as soon as a claim is received. And that’s probably most critical in smaller companies where human resources may have the most experience in conducting internal investigations.

Earl “Chip” Jones, an attorney at Littler Mendelson, says the involvement of human resource professionals is important because the department is typically the one that will have to ensure compliance with the anti-retaliation provisions of Dodd-Frank.

“If HR doesn’t know about complaints,” says Jones, who, among other employment areas, specializes in corporate compliance and ethics, and whistleblowing and retaliation, “they can’t do anything about (preventing retaliation against the whistleblower). It’s another reason to know the hot spots in the business where a claim may arise.”

Complaints include classic personnel issues

A Littler Mendelson survey found two-thirds of the mostly S&P 500 companies that participated expect claims to increase in the coming months.

In larger companies, the investigation into the legitimacy of the claim of fraud or some other  securities law violation  is handled primarily by the legal or finance departments. HR may participate, Jones says, because complaints often include classic personnel issues.

In smaller companies, Jones says, human resource professionals “may have a very active role in the investigation.” HR, he notes, may have the most experience of any group in investigating employee claims.

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Training is crucial for supervisors

With the new federal Office of the Whistleblower getting up to 100 tips a day, Jones counsels companies to take stock of their potential exposure and plan for what to do when and if a claim is lodged.

Training is crucial; especially training for supervisors and managers, Jones adds. Littler Mendelson’s training includes whistleblower claims that involve more than just Dodd-Frank issues.

“Never expect a clean HR only issue,” says Jones. Training should incorporate all “the twists and turns that occur in every workplace.”

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


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