There will likely come a time at some point at your company where someone, somewhere will do something really stupid.  And perhaps its even something you believe might be criminal.

See no evil?

It may be someone popular. Or someone really productive, like your top salesperson.

And you’ll probably only learn about it through a coincidence, like a co-worker walking by an employee’s cubicle unexpectedly and seeing what could be child pornography on the employee’s computer screen.

What happens next could be the difference between becoming the next Penn State or the next company you’ve still never heard of.

In Penn State’s case, superiors learned of unspeakable crimes and chose to cover it up.  The Freeh Report demonstrated that. Yesterday’s penalties by the NCAA demonstrate the consequences of such an action.  Further criminal indictments are also expected.

Some employers are unaware that there are certain types of crimes that must be reported by employers.

For example, Connecticut has a mandated reporter statute that requires certain employees to report child abuse. There is no discretion about it.  (See this good post from the From the Sidebar blog too.)

Similarly, under federal law, most employers have an obligation to report an employee who uses company computers to download child porn. 

But there may be other instances that fall outside the lines of these laws or instances that require a little more background. What then?

Obviously, each matter needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but ignoring criminal behavior at work can often times come back to harm the company even more later on.  (Hence the phrase: “The Coverup is Worse Than the Crime.) When in doubt, do something — even if it means consulting with your counsel and determining that the action does not rise to the level of reporting for a variety of reasons. 

Nothing good comes from doing nothing.