Which Misconduct Reporting Channel is Best?

Every person's experience with misconduct, sexual or otherwise, is unique, so this document can at best offer general direction.

For employees, organizations prefer that you reach out first to your management and the affiliated HR team associated with your management. Under some circumstances, this may be appropriate; however, sometimes, employees are concerned about retaliation against them by their immediate management and colleagues or that someone will "bury" the report. It may also be that the managers or representatives of HR or both are involved, in which case reporting through your group's HR team or management is a less viable option.

Under such circumstances, the next best avenue within the company is likely the hotline or reporting website, which you can may choose to use anonymously or not. Review the Code of Conduct for the company to see if it indicates where the report re-enters the company. In some companies, an employee's report will go back into HR at a higher level; in others, it will go into the legal group (called "compliance") at a higher level, or to an internal committee consisting of both groups or even to the Audit Committee.

If your report involves top management's misconduct, such as actions of the executive management team, or could have significant financial consequences, you should contact the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors. You can choose to come forward or you can remain anonymous.

The Code of Conduct may describe investigation procedures a company pursues following receipt of the report. Regardless of which channel you use, most companies have non-retaliation policies, which you can also read about in the Code of Conduct. Note that they ask that you submit your request in "good faith," which suggests you honestly suspect misconduct (sexual harassment, assault, ethics violations, fraud) has taken place, have experienced the misconduct, or even have evidence. Using any of these channels for a false report could result in termination. Often, failing to report known misconduct is considered a violation of the organization's Code of Conduct.

Most companies do not have a channel of communication for non-employees; if you are employed by a supplier, you may want to look for the a separate Supplier Code of Conduct. If you wish to report someone to their employer and you do not share that employer, you can try the anonymous 1-800 line, but it may refuse to take your report. After the hotline, for nuisance and offensive harassment, it is likely best to reach out to the the Chief of Human Resources. For threats, repeated harassment and other crimes, you may first want to seek the advice of an employment attorney. As a non-employee, if the hotline is not an option and you wish to notify the company anonymously, contact the Audit Company of the Board of Directors for crimes or if the impact of the perpetrator's behavior has the potential to have an impact on the overall company.