You do the right thing and report unethical behavior. Then, the worst happens. You’re suddenly pushed out of your job and find it impossible to get a new job elsewhere. You’ve been blacklisted.
The good news is in many cases, blacklists are illegal. The bad news is it isn’t illegal in every state in the US. No matter what, it’s a highly unethical practice that still goes on, even in states where it’s officially illegal to do so.
Businesses aren’t always content to just fire someone for whistleblowing. While blacklists don’t exist just for whistleblowers, it’s all too common to put employees on a list for disrupting questionable and illegal practices. This is usually done by a supervisor or business owner that was punished or fined as a direct result of the whistleblower.
Employees don’t just get fired. This is bad enough on its own. However, some businesses and employers go the extra mile by trying to prevent the employee from getting hired elsewhere.
Blacklists are still legal in some states. Employers are allowed to share information to other area businesses and those in the same industry to block an ex-employee from getting a new job. It’s a vindictive approach and doesn’t benefit anyone.
Blacklist Databases Are Becoming Illegal
As everyone knows, having a law in place doesn’t mean everyone will follow it. Whistleblowers know this firsthand. Currently, 29 states have laws against blacklists. The exact laws vary. Some strictly prohibit all forms of blacklisting, even word of mouth. Others only prohibit actual lists, but not word of mouth. If you believe you’re a victim of blacklisting, you should contact a lawyer to see if you’re protected.
Even in states where there isn’t a statewide law, there may still be other protections in place on a local level. A lawyer may also be able to use blacklisting to prove wrongful termination and that you’re employer is simply being spiteful. Nolo.com provides a list of states with blacklisting laws to help you better understand how you’re protected. Businesses should also look closely at this list as employees do have the right to sue under the law.
Blacklisting Hurts Businesses
Background checks are a good thing; but, blacklists harm everyone involved. A background check can help a business avoid hiring someone with a known criminal background, such as hiring someone charged with shoplifting to run cash registers.
Blacklist databases hurt good employees who didn’t do anything wrong. They simply angered the wrong person or people. They shouldn’t be punished for that, especially for speaking up against wrongdoing.
First of all, blacklisting can hurt a business’s reputation when people find out. The business could easily lose current employees who don’t want to be associated with a business like that. It could also cause them to lose customers.
Second, other businesses then miss out on hiring a great employee. If it becomes common knowledge that a company is using a blacklist to filter out job candidates, it can hurt their reputation too.
The best approach is to avoid putting an employee on a blacklist and using blacklists or word of mouth blacklisting to vet candidates. Even more importantly, accept whistleblowing as a valid way to improve the business instead of punishing employees.