September 20, 2014 • By Dennis Beaver
Advice from a remarkable Canadian:
Are you seeing things on the job which you believe to be illegal, want to report it but are worried about retaliation, possibly losing your job? Have you thought, “If I become a whistle blower, what could this mean, personally, for my family and friends?”
“If you do not pause and ask these questions before taking that action, blame no one but yourself if the next few months or years are a living nightmare,” cautions Ron Lewis, now retired from the RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
A member of the RCMP for over 35 years, the last 10 of which at headquarters in Ottawa where he was elected representative for RCMP members. There, he and others discovered a scam involving tens of millions of dollars diverted from pension and insurance funds involving RCMP senior management.
“As I was elected to the position by the membership, no one at the RCMP could remove me, a luxury which most whistle blowers do not have,” he observes, adding, “Several of my colleagues suffered greatly from their work in revealing the extent of the thefts and cover-up.”
Go to the immediate manager — Verbal at first
“Once an employee discovers concrete proof of wrongdoing, unless there is a protocol established or in a handbook, the place to begin is with the immediate manager over the person or people who are the wrongdoers,” Lewis recommends.
“It is in the verbal realm at this stage, with an effort to bring to the attention of management a serious problem, and you are not yet a whistle blower. Many times, going to the top will resolve the problem. But when it does not, it is most often because the manager is involved or feels this will reflect poorly on his management, and this is when the cover-up begins.
“Taking this to the next level, you will be labeled as a whistle blower when all you were trying to do is the right thing. You make it official by putting it in writing and then go to the head of the organization or officially designated person for whistle blowers, if there is one.
“Even that may not resolve the problem because if corruption is at the top, they can over-ride the whistle blower process–audits and internal investigations, for example — because they have that authority.
“Follow every designated process in order. Don’t skip steps.”
“Am I strong enough? Do I have the financial ability? Can I pay the price? You simply must ask these questions, even before your first conversation with that manager,” Lewis maintains.
“Realize that what you are about to embark on is a voyage which can take years to complete through unimaginably rough seas. You need support from your family as everything valued and cherished — marriage, family, children, friends, job — is at risk. Everyone around you can be affected.
“Marriages can crumble. Because of the time and energy these battles consume, children lose the close presence of their parents. When there is a cover-up and retaliation, whistle blowers suffer, family and friends often do not understand why you are being punished if you are doing the right thing. Families can feel abandoned by the whistle blower. ‘If you are doing the right thing, why did you lose your job?’ they will ask.
“Who should not even think about being a whistle blower?” we asked. “The majority of people!” Lewis immediately answered.
“Their livelihood is at stake. When you stand up and do the right thing, even with laws on the books offering whistle blower protection, expect to be punished. This is generally not something for a young person with a family and a mortgage. People who cover up know this. Even if you don’t get fired, you will pay.
“You need to find allies — including silent partners who can provide information even while they remain anonymous. Two or more voices give more credibility. Those on the inside who will feed you what you need.
When nothing happens — What now?
“Assuming that you have exhausted every internal process and met with failure, your next step is to contact whoever is politically responsible or who has power to look into your complaints. In addition, you must get the media involved immediately.
“This is a last ditch effort. And this is why it is so critical to have people behind you with credibility.”
Ron Lewis was directly responsible for the recovery of millions of dollars for the RCMP and received their highest commendation as well as from the Government of Canada. Google: Ron Lewis RCMP Fraud for a story of great courage shown under extreme pressure.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.