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Blacklisted – or simply bad luck?

Georgia worked as an electrical engineer on a major transport project. Her role was to check whether the electrical installations complied with health and safety standards. She noted a number of installation issues, as well as a piece of damaged cable that, if left unchanged, could cause a fire. When Georgia reported her findings to her employer and other contractors, no action was taken. She resigned in frustration and the following year the contractors in question were replaced.

Georgia has since found new employment, however, she is concerned that she may have been blacklisted by some companies, as she was recently unsuccessful in four job applications, even though she is well qualified and well respected within the industry.

We explained that blacklisting can be a detriment covered by whistleblowing law but it can be tricky to prove at tribunal. We queried whether this was indeed a case of blacklisting or whether Georgia might have been unsuccessful for other, valid reasons. Georgia would have to show that she made a ‘protected disclosure’ (raised a public interest concern) when she initially raised her concerns with her employer and other contractors. Whether she did or not would depend on what was said, whether it was sufficiently specific and whether she had a reasonable belief that there had been, was, or was likely to be, a breach of a legal obligation or a health and safety risk- the two categories of wrongdoing most relevant to her case.

Georgia could make a Data Subject Access Request (“DSAR”) of her previous and prospective employers. If this revealed some form of blacklisting, she may have a claim using the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (“PIDA”) against her previous employer. We referred Georgia to regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office for advice on making a DSAR. We reminded Georgia that there is a three-month-minus-one-day time limit on tribunal claims. It was not clear in her case from when the time limit would run but, if out of time, Georgia might have to apply for an extension. Georgia would be unlikely to have a blacklisting claim against prospective employers. Protect is campaigning for job applicant protection, which is unfortunately not yet part of whistleblowing law.