If you ignore whistleblowers, prepare to pay

judge with gavelIt’s never a good idea to ignore whistleblowers who level accusations of wrongdoing about your organization—especially if they’re right!

Ignoring whistleblower allegations that may be verifiable can become a public relations nightmare and an extremely expensive legal problem.

Two employers have recently learned that lesson the hard way.

Walking the line against TSA

Alyssa Bermudez spends hours most weekdays picketing outside the Transportation Safety Administration headquarters near Washington, D.C.

An Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star for her service in Iraq, Bermudez was fired from her job at the TSA just a few days before her probationary period ended. The reason, she says: Retaliation for complaining about rampant sexual harassment by superiors and co-workers.

An EEOC complaint is pending. But Bermudez’s protests—she marches most days in business attire and high heels, carrying a sign that reads, “I was retaliated against at TSA”—have attracted the attention of an entity bureaucrats fear even more than the EEOC: the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Penn State on trial again

Former Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary was a key witness in the 2012 child sexual abuse trial that resulted in the conviction of fellow coach Jerry Sandusky.

McQueary alleged he was defamed by Penn State officials after he reported he had witnessed Sandusky molesting a minor. In October, a jury agreed, awarding him more than $7.3 million.

But that wasn’t the end of it. McQueary claimed he had been fired in retaliation for reporting the abuse and had been unable to land a good job in the aftermath. On Nov. 30, the judge who heard the defamation case awarded McQueary another $5 million for his whistleblower retaliation claim.

Advice: Take every whistleblower complaint seriously. First investigate. Consult your attorney if there is even a shred of evidence that the claim may be true.