We should maintain, if not strengthen, employment protections given to employees who report illegal or discriminatory conduct on the part of a co-employee or employer. The common term for an employee who exposes illegal or wrongful conduct is “whistleblower.”
Unfortunately, there is an active movement to cut back on the legal protections given to such employees, which is bad public policy. Society as a whole benefits when an employee comes forward and exposes wrongful conduct on the part of an employee. This movement, driven largely by big business and insurance companies, is very shortsighted, because whistleblowing should be encouraged as a matter of good policy.
A recent example perfectly illustrates the point. ABC News recently ran an article here entitled “How Whistle-Blower Helped Expose Michigan Cancer Doctor Who Mistreated Patients.” The article explained that a greedy Michigan cancer doctor, Dr. Farid Fata, was intentionally giving false cancer diagnoses to patients just so that he could charge them for chemotherapy and other expensive treatments, defrauding not only the patient but primarily their health insurance company. The piece states that over 553 patients fell victim to his lies. In some cases, the patient never had cancer at all but were told that they did to get them to undergo treatment. In other cases, the patient actually had cancer, but in order to increase his income Dr. Fata actually gave them more expensive treatments designed to treat cancer is different from the one they actually had.
Dr. Fata worked at Crittenton Cancer Center in Rochester Hills, Michigan, and his whole criminal scheme only was exposed due to the actions of a brave whistleblower, office manager George Karadsheh, and some other members of the office staff at that center. Because of Mr. Karadsheh’s courageously exposing his scheme, Dr. Fata’s now serving a well-deserved 45-year prison sentence.
But there’s going to be another consequence of this whistleblowing: Crittenton Cancer Center is no doubt going to be facing a large number of malpractice lawsuits from patients who were lied to about their cancer, as well as from health insurance companies who paid fraudulent chemotherapy bills.
So now we need to ask ourselves: Do we as a society want to encourage people like Mr. Karadsheh to come forward and expose wrongdoing? I think we would all answer yes to that question.
Now consider a clinic down the road and imagine a situation in the future, two years from now. The office manager has just learned that one of the doctors at that clinic is doing the exact same thing that Dr. Fata. The office manager asks herself: “What should I do?” If she’s aware that there are little or no protections for whistleblowers, and then what protections there are very difficult to enforce because employers frequently hide behind innocent looking explanations, she may unfortunately conclude that she can’t personally afford to do the right thing. She can’t afford to expose the wrongdoing, because she doesn’t want to risk getting fired and being blackballed in the only industry she knows. she decides that she’s worked hard to get where she is, and doesn’t want risk her career no matter how awful the doctor’s conduct.
Dr. Fata’s is a particularly severe case, but these whistleblower situations, and this analysis on the part of a potential whistleblower, are common.
Many times, the only way someone who’s been illegally discriminated against only learns about it when an insider tells them what really happened. (“My manager told me that he threw your resume out because he would never hire a “[fill in the blank with the name of any protected group].”)
Employers frequently placed the blame for those suits on the person who exposed the situation, rather than the person who was actually committed the wrong. And that is exactly why we need laws protecting whistleblowers. Society benefits from the whistleblower exposing the illegal and discriminatory conduct.
A Supreme Court Justice once said “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” We need to encourage citizens to pull back the blinds and let others see wrongdoing. Because these employees benefit society as a whole, we should keep and strengthen laws protecting these whistleblower employees and making it illegal for employers to retaliate against them.
There’s little doubt that many people who could expose wrongdoing are very reluctant to do so out of a fear that they going to place their job at risk. They should not have to worry about that, and these laws should be maintained and strengthened.