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Documenting wrongdoing at work: A guide for federal employees

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2023 | Whistleblower Protection

As a federal employee, you may encounter situations where you suspect wrongdoing within your workplace. Documenting these concerns can be crucial in building a solid case should you report the misconduct. However, it’s essential to tread carefully and be mindful of the dos and don’ts of documenting wrongdoing.

Here’s what you should know about documenting misconduct while ensuring your own protection.

The importance of documentation

Documenting wrongdoing serves several purposes. It helps you accurately recall details, provides evidence to support your claims, and establishes a timeline of events. It can also demonstrate your good faith effort to address the issue before taking formal action. Proper documentation can bolster your credibility and strengthen your case when reporting misconduct.

Do nots of documenting wrongdoing

While there are certain protections for whistleblowers, it is crucial to avoid certain mistakes when you begin keeping a record of potential wrongdoing, including:

  • Do not violate company policies: While documenting wrongdoing, ensure you are not violating company policies or breaching confidentiality agreements. Use good judgment and follow applicable rules and regulations.
  • Do not use work devices for personal documentation: It is generally advisable not to use them. Instead, use a personal device or, if necessary, pen and paper. This helps maintain the confidentiality of your records and protects them from potential interference or deletion.
  • Do not share documentation with uninvolved parties: Keep your documentation confidential and limit its distribution only to those directly involved or trusted individuals, such as your attorney. Sharing sensitive information with uninvolved parties may compromise your case and put your job or safety at risk.

By taking reasonable precautions, you may be able to avoid some of the challenges that come with whistleblowing.

Dos of documenting wrongdoing

In addition to actions you should avoid, there are also some steps you should be sure to take when you start or continue your record, such as:

  • Maintain accurate and detailed records: Record the date, time, location, and description of each incident or observation. Be specific, including names, positions, and any relevant conversations or actions. Remember to document facts rather than assumptions or personal opinions.
  • Preserve supporting evidence: If you encounter any tangible evidence related to the wrongdoing, such as emails, memos or photographs, try to retain copies. These materials can serve as crucial supporting evidence later on.
  • Keep a personal log: Maintain a private log outside of work to record your observations and thoughts about the wrongdoing. This log can help you organize your thoughts, track patterns, and provide a comprehensive account of events if needed in the future.
  • Seek legal advice: Consult with an attorney specializing in whistleblower protection or employment law. They can guide you on how to document appropriately and advise you on the legal aspects of your situation.

Documenting wrongdoing at work is essential if you suspect misconduct as a federal employee. It helps you gather evidence, recall details accurately and establish a timeline of events. Should you decide to report the wrongdoing, consult a skilled professional experienced in whistleblower protection to help you safeguard your rights.


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