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What protections do whistleblowers have?

The recent case in the news about Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has likely raised many questions for people, such as: What is whistleblowing, and how is someone protected when they are trying to do the right, ethical thing in reporting illegal or bad behavior?

Many would agree that Frances Haugen showed a great deal of bravery in taking on one of the world’s largest and richest corporations. You would have a hard time finding someone who doesn’t know about Facebook. As of the second quarter of 2021, the company boasts 2.89 billion users. And, right now, there’s a good chance that most have some opinion about the bombshell reports that recently made their way into the news.

Armed with thousands of pages of documents, Haugen publicly called out Facebook’s intentional bad actions. As the Washington Post reports, Haugen produced documents which appeared to prove that Facebook knew very well that its platform had a toxic effect on young girls, supported human trafficking, made society angrier, granted policy exceptions for conspiracy theorists and generally placed profit ahead of any sort of public good.

In turn, Facebook has taken a beating in the news, and you can’t imagine the executives are happy with Frances Haugen. So, what protections does she have as a whistleblower?

Forms of retaliation whistleblowers face

While there are many different forms of retaliation, they tend to include, as Minnesota law provides in its statute:

  • Termination
  • Discipline
  • Threats
  • Other discriminatory practices

Building a whistleblower case

One important thing to remember before filing a whistleblower complaint is that you want to do it correctly. In addition to making sure you follow the most appropriate law, you must follow the correct process, and you may need to meet certain deadlines. You should gather and review your evidence carefully before moving forward.

In some cases, if you fail to follow the correct protocols, you may find yourself more vulnerable and exposed than you had expected. Additionally, you may jeopardize your claim, and suffer retaliation for your actions, even though that retaliation is illegal. There are Minnesota laws that protect whistleblowers and allow them to recover from the retaliation.

Still, whistleblowers like Frances Haugen step forward because they hope they can make a difference. Whatever their motivation, whistleblowers must build strong cases and there’s a good chance Frances Haugen was in contact with an employment law attorney well before she filed her case.

Back at Facebook, change is likely on the way

Before Haugen worked at Facebook, she had developed her own dating app, then worked at Google and Pinterest. She joined Facebook, she said, to make a difference from the inside. But where those efforts seem to have failed, Haugen’s whistleblowing may lead to new changes.

Her Senate hearing brought the tech giant once again under the legislative microscope. The company has faced Senate scrutiny before, but this time feels different. Haugen has shown how Facebook negatively impacted society. Haugen also provided evidence that the company knew it was harming people and chose to prioritize its profits. These are the sort of issues that have previously led to new laws. We’ll see if they do so again.