Jonathan Zarembok, a BP oil trader lost his job with BP for whistleblowing about possible bribes being paid to Nigerian middlemen. The employment tribunal in London ruled Zarembok wasn’t entitled to the protection of the ‘Public Interest Disclosures Act’ because his concerns failed to show any “wrongdoing was likely rather than merely possible.” This has resulted in the Whistleblower job being lost.
Zarembok had raised concerns over “abnormally large” fees paid to Nigerian agents to ‘ease’ the flow of business to BP from Nigeria’s state owned oil giant NNPC.
Zarmebok claimed he was dismissed for blowing the whistle. BP stated he had made himself unpopular and was isolated in the team because of what he had done. BP says this is why he left the organisation.
He lost his six figure salary and multi-million dollar bonuses.
BP argued Zarembok’s whistleblowing activities made it impossible for him to continue in his position and due to him having little evidence to confirm his suspicions the court should remove his whistleblower protections against retaliation.
A London employment tribunal ruled Zarembok’s whistleblowing activities do not count as “protected disclosures,” removing his cover through laws protecting whistleblowers.
The tribunal further stated it did not have enough information to rule against BP as it could not determine wrongdoing by the oil corporate.
Whistleblower Job losses
The number of whistleblowers who lose their jobs in the UK is far, far too high. It is why we built Aranea. To allow people to raise concerns without having to reveal their identity, because frequently when they do, this is the result. The tribunal in this case found that Zarembok’s concern had no merit, he could only suspect the bribes were taking place as opposed to know they were. This case raises serious issues with PIDA (Public Interest Disclosure Act) in that the act actually covers this issue.
The law here states:
(1)In this Part a “qualifying disclosure” means any disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the worker making the disclosure, tends to show one or more of the following—
(a)that a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed,
(b)that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject,
(c)that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur,
(d)that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered,
(e)that the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged, or
(f)that information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding paragraphs has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.
Why this judgement creates difficulties.
We have put in italic and in red the bit that concerns us. The law states the whistleblower merely has to ‘reasonably believe’ that an act breaching the law is taking place, not that it actually is. So Zarembok is under no obligation to prove what he was saying is true. He merely has to have what any reasonable person would belief to be the case that it was.
Belief is a difficult concept to pin down. There is lots of legal jargon about it. But one things is for sure. If you are considering blowing the whistle on your organisation you better have more than a suspicion, you better be packing some proof – with admissable evidence.
Almost certainly whistleblowers putting their jobs at risk are not legally qualified or even experienced in the law or court procedural processes. Whistleblowers jobs are at risk when they blow the whistle and so it is critical they get independent advice and assistance BEFORE they blow the whistle. We also always advise that whistleblowers raise their concern through independent means and not on devices owned by the organisation they report on. We cannot underestimate the ramifications to potential whistleblowers who decide to report internally. Frequently they are dismissed and frequently the courts fail to protect them.
It is of vital importance if you, as a prospective whistleblower, intend on blowing the whistle you had better have collected evidence BEFORE you blow the whistle because frequently after the organisation will shut down your access to evidence and essentially start to make your working life unbearable.
We built Aranea to give potential whistleblowers opportunity to raise concerns on an encrypted and anonymous platform to raise the issues internally inside the organisation, but to do it in away they can’t be identified. This buys them time andspace to understand the response from the organisation. It allows them chance to respond in a rationale way to frequently irrational organisational response.
Download the apps to report what you know and get free advice to help you take your concern forward in safety.