From the recent reports of retaliatory acts against whistleblowers, some wonder if the protections under the Dodd-Frank Act proscribing retribution against tipsters are known to companies and government offices. Regardless of whether a company committed fraud or other illegal acts, punishing employees who reported their suspicions is illegal. We will examine two whistleblowers who put their jobs on the line to report illegal activity.
Blowing the whistle on Ramapo, New York
For more than 10 years, Melissa Reimer served the town of Ramapo, New York as supervisor of fiscal services. She recently testified that she reported to her managers that the revenue figures used on a financial statement needed for a bond application were inaccurate. She also informed superiors of improper money transfers — including one to the town supervisor. For her whistleblowing, Reimer was directed to be quiet and was later fired. The town denied the fraud and her alleged reports of impropriety. Recently, a town hearing officer upheld two misconduct charges against Reimer and five other employees. One of the charges is that Reimer attempted to falsify records of a police officer. The hearing officer concluded that Reimer's claim of retaliation is meritless.
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant
Thirty-eight year old Jason Hettler was a lieutenant security officer at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan, New York. He alleges that he periodically reported security concerns to upper management. Court documents reveal that he informed supervisors about three failed security drills. In the most recent of these drills, security team's radio system was hacked and communication was suspended.
Entergy, the power plant's parent company, modified Hettler's work schedule and eventually suspended him. Hettler raised his concerns to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which has led to the filing a 76-page lawsuit claiming retaliation after he blew the whistle on the plant's security failures.
Despite news reports of whistleblowing, many companies' first reaction to employees reporting misconduct or illegal activity is to demote or terminate them. Corporations would be wise to educate their management about whistleblowing laws such as the Dodd-Frank Act.