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I recently was presented with an opportunity to make money on a “sponsored” post. However, the company did not want me to disclose the sponsorship. If you are a blogger or content creator online, you know that FTC guidelines dictate that sponsorships must be clearly disclosed. This company pressured me to compromise. Ultimately I declined the offer, not wanting to risk a fine or alienating readers.
This scenario does not just play out for bloggers. It happens in every industry. I have been asked to not report workplace accidents in a previous job ( a huge OSHA violation). And in another position my boss did some “creative” accounting, which made me very uncomfortable and nervous. I eventually left both jobs due to a variety of reasons, but the pressure to do unethical and even illegal things played a part in my decisions to leave.
Unfortunately, employers know that they have the upper hand. Employees feel they have no other options but to go along with what the boss wants in order to keep their jobs. So what do you do when asked to do something unethical or illegal? Read on for the steps to take in order to protect yourself from legal and career problems.
Trust Your Instincts
If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Don’t do anything that makes you uneasy. This is much easier said than done, particularly if it’s your boss asking you to do something questionable. However, if you do go along with something unethical or illegal, it could lead to serious ramifications. Even if you’re low on the totem pole, this does not protect you from trouble. So how do you tell your supervisor that you aren’t comfortable with something? You could simply state that you don’t feel comfortable. Be prepared to explain why you feel this way. Don’t do so in an accusatory manner. Rather, explain your concerns and why it could cause problems for the company as a whole. If your boss or coworker still insists that it’s okay, ask them to give you some time to research the matter.
Documentation is crucial for protecting yourself from unscrupulous employers and potential legal consequences. If asked to do something unethical or illegal, start a paper trail. Write down the date and time, what was asked of you, who asked you and your response. If possible, communicate via email and back up the emails in a safe space. These documents will prove useful when meeting with HR or legal professionals.
Consult HR or the Legal Department
The job of the human resources and legal departments is to protect your employer. If you feel that you’re being ask to do something unethical or illegal, consulting human resources may provide clarity. Bring all of your documentation on the matter when you meet with HR or legal. If you are lucky, HR will back you up and help you navigate the situation. Unfortunately, many companies look the other way when it comes to questionable activities. Some HR departments don’t want to get involved in sticky situations. If you work for a company like this, start looking for another job immediately.
Is It Time to Leave?
If your employer overlooks or encourages unethical or illegal activities, start looking for another position. There are many reasons one may decide to leave a job, but pressure to do something that could get you into legal trouble is possibly the biggest reason to jump ship fast.
Finding a Good Company
When looking for a job, one important step is to research potential employers. You can find company reviews on a variety of websites. If possible, reach out to current or former employees and ask them about the corporate culture. Is the leadership transparent? Does the company support those who report wrong-doings? Determine what you value in a company. Actively seek to find a company that matches those values.
At some point in your career, you’ll likely be presented with a difficult choice. Before taking action, assess your values, consult with relevant professionals and resist the urge to give in to pressure. No job is worth compromising your values or risking legal trouble.