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Elements of a Successful Compliance Hotline

1. Anonymity:

Employees should be able to provide their tips of wrongdoing anonymously. While all companies should strive to have open lines of communication, it is important to recognize that many employees will only be willing to provide tips if they can do so anonymously

2. Confidentiality

Anonymity and confidentiality, these are separate but equally important. An employee might give his or her name to demonstrate the information is trustworthy, but still wish to remain anonymous. Similarly, the identity of an anonymous informant may become known during the investigation or simply because of the information provided. Regardless, it is critical for tipsters to feel comfortable that the company will do all that it can to protect the confidentiality of their role and the information they provided

3. No Retaliation

Companies must emphasize that retaliation against employees who make whistleblower reports are against the law, against company policy and will not be tolerated under any circumstances. The fear of retribution is real and will affect the effectiveness of any reporting process unless there is a sufficient trust in a company’s whistle blower processes.

4. Company Policy Comes from the Top

To have a successful program, there must be a culture in which employees believe that tips, and the persons that provide them, are valued, and that there is support for the reporting of unethical or unlawful conduct. This can only happen if there is a strong support for the program from the owners and upper management. One of the best ways of accomplishing this, is by management responding quickly and effectively to hotline calls and other tips.

5. Access

The goal is to have open lines of communications, and while anonymous hotlines may be the preferred method of communication for some, employees or others should have other choices such as internal hotlines, email, anonymous boxes, or regular meetings in which “issues” are discussed. 

6. Management and Operation by Respected Third Party

Employees will generally question whether hotlines will protect confidentiality and anonymity and many will only report through independent third party providers. Outsourcing also benefits employers by demonstrating a commitment by management while lessening the burden on employees otherwise tasked with the job.

7. Follow-Up

The way complaints are handled is critical as employees need to feel that their complaints are, or will be addressed timely and aggressively and are not going to be ignored.

8. Audit

Hotlines should be evaluated on a regular basis measuring how calls are handled in terms of confidentiality, accuracy and timeliness. This should be done to ensure that the hotline is operating as intended.

9. Education

Another means that management has of supporting the hotline is through training and employee’s education on the process of their protection.

10. Keeping Your Eye on the Prize

The goal of a hotline program is to create an environment where issues are identified early and resolved quickly. Thus, management should consider taking steps to work jointly with employees to find ways to increase support and participation in the program.


Compliance Hotline