Wrongdoing at Work: Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (LRC)
One can report the wrongdoing to lateral co-workers but they might not be able or willing to take effective action. If this does not work, the whistleblower might move "up the ladder" in the organization, by reporting the wrongdoing to one's supervisor. This is risky, especially if the supervisor or senior managers do not care about or do not believe the wrongdoing is occurring or if they are directing it. As George Orwell said, "during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." Nevertheless, supervisors can investigate, take corrective action, explain and clarify any misunderstandings. Don't we owe our employers that minimum loyalty? [Linda Merk] had only gone to her bosses and the union president before she was fired. Had she made her complaints to a "lawful authority" as described in the legislation? At the first hearing, Merk lost. Her case was dismissed. An appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench led to a conviction against the employer. In a further appeal to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in 2003, Merk lost again in a 2-1 decision. "...would discourage the internal resolution of alleged misconduct by withholding whistleblower protection unless and until the employee goes 'outside' to the enforcement authorities of the state. ...protection should be extended to employees who first blow the whistle to the boss or other persons inside the employer organization who have the 'lawful authority' to deal with the problem. If the problem is not resolved internally, then employees can go 'outside' to the police or another enforcement agency, but in order to obtain the protection of s. 74, it is not necessary that they do so. ...there may well be circumstances where an employee is fully justified in not seeking an internal remedy but in going directly to the police, as where (for example) it is feared that the employer may destroy evidence. Whether or not an employee is justified in bypassing internal remedies will depend on the circumstances. ...a suitable 'lawful authority' may be found inside as well as outside the employer organization, and if an employee chooses to go the inside route and suffers retaliation, the protection of s. 74 is still available."
Article deposited after permission was granted by the editor of LawNow Magazine, 06/28/2010.
Labor law, Whistleblowing, Supreme Court decisions, Labor unions
Bowal, Peter, "Wrongdoing at Work: Who Ya Gonna Call?", Law Now, Feb/Mar 2006, Vol. 30, Iss. 4; pg. 13.