Safety problems with Toyota automobiles have been a dominant news item in recent months, and now Associated Press investigative reporters Curt Anderson and Danny Robbins (link here) have concluded that the company “has routinely engaged in questionable, evasive and deceptive legal tactics when sued, frequently claiming it does not have information it is required to turn over and sometimes even ignoring court orders to produce key documents.”
They further write:
In a review of lawsuits filed around the country involving a wide range of complaints — not just the sudden acceleration problems that have led to millions of Toyotas being recalled — the automaker has hidden the existence of tests that would be harmful to its legal position and claimed key material was difficult to get at its headquarters in Japan. It has withheld potentially damaging documents and refused to release data stored electronically in its vehicles.
What would you have done?
The Toyota story itself is shaping into yet another instance of corporate wrongdoing, which in this era has become sadly ho hum. Nevertheless, a question worth asking is what would we have done had we worked at Toyota and become privy to information about product safety and liability?
It’s easy to get on a high horse and claim we would’ve blown the whistle. But reality can be hard on ideals, and practical considerations of job security and personal security often come into play in whistleblowing situations. Furthermore, it is well known that whistleblowers often pay a significant long-term price in terms of their careers.
Get advice first
Fortunately, for most of us, this scenario is a hypothetical one. However, if you find yourself in a potential whistleblowing situation, get advice first. Talking confidentially to an experienced employment attorney and learning more about the implications of whistleblowing are good starting places. I’ve listed some resources below that may be of help.
National Employment Lawyers Association, a bar association of lawyers who represent workers
Integrity International, directed by whistleblowing expert Don Soeken