The fight to stop wrongdoing in the workplace is ongoing. In far too many cases, sex discrimination takes place, in which one gender is preferred by an employer or manager over the other. In still other cases, an employer will retaliate against a worker courageous enough to step forward and point out problems.
Back before modern communications systems made conversations between operators of one train and operators of another as simple as picking up a phone, signals were sent back and forth with blasts on the trains' whistles. Variations in whistle patterns meant different things to nearby railroad workers, drivers of motor vehicles and engineers on other trains.
To some, the term whistleblower brings up negative connotations. If you were to compare whistleblowers to a "rat" in a mafia movie, that would be a false equivalency. Whistleblowers provide a crucial service in the world of business and employment, ensuring that companies and even individual employees don't misappropriate their power or positions for illegal or nefarious means.
It happens in Milwaukee and it happens in cities and towns across the nation as well. When people blow the whistle on improper or illegal behavior in the workplace, they are often subjected to retaliation by supervisors and employers; retaliation that is expressly prohibited by law.
It is a rare sight these days to see members of the Democratic Party working with members of the Republican Party. While a tumultuous presidential election campaign is underway, a handful of Republicans and Democrats have found an issue on which they have some common ground: Whistleblowers.
Many Wisconsin residents use Bank of America for their various banking needs. On May 16, a female executive with BoA filed a 41-page complaint against the company in Manhattan federal court. In addition to gender discrimination allegations, the 42-year-old executive accused the nation's largest bank of engaging in illegal trading practices and violating whistle-blower protection laws.
A lot of Wisconsin companies require workers to sign confidentiality agreements when they hire them, but this does not prevent workers from reporting legal violations. This is what LifeWatch Services learned on May 9 when a U.S. magistrate dismissed its countersuit against a whistleblower for violating employment and nondisclosure agreements.
Wisconsin residents are likely aware that the German auto maker Volkswagen is facing federal fines that some observers feel could reach nine figures. The manufacturer has admitted to using software designed to help its vehicles cheat federal emissions tests, and a March 7 report suggests that the Wolfsburg-based company have been dealt another legal blow. The reports concern a former Volkswagen worker who claims that he was fired for bringing attention to the illegal deletion of information at a Michigan data center.
At the end of February 2016, a senator from Wisconsin and a congressman from Maryland proposed an act designed to augment legal protections for some whistleblowers. Specifically, the new law, known as the Whistleblower Augmented Reward and Nonretaliation Act, or the WARN Act of 2016, would change other existing laws to provide more rights for people who alert the authorities to misconduct by financial services entities.
Wisconsin residents may know that whistleblower protection laws are in place to encourage individuals to come forward and report malfeasance by their employers by protecting them from retaliation. However, they may not be aware that these protections do not generally apply when the wrongdoing being reported is tax underpayment or tax fraud.