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Take Action to Protect Whistleblowers
GAP has been on the frontlines of nearly every major federal whistleblower statute since 1978, and along with our partners in the Make It Safe Coalition, we have led passage of more than a dozen gold-standard whistleblower laws since 2002 that offer protection from reprisal to employees who report serious wrongdoing.
Whether the issue is food safety or financial integrity, disclosures made by whistleblowers are one of the most effective tools to promote government and corporate accountability. Yet whistleblowers take grave professional, and increasingly personal, risks on behalf of the public.
Most whistleblowers seek to report problems within their organizations, but rather than being thanked for raising concerns about wrongdoing or serious threats to health and safety and having their concerns addressed, employees typically suffer reprisal, such as harassment, poor performance reviews, reductions in job responsibilities, or termination.
Yet even as new legal protections are enacted to expand whistleblower protection and fight corruption, managers are increasingly using new reprisal tactics to silence whistleblowers: threats of criminal investigation and prosecution.
Imagine if your only crime was reporting a crime: this is the threat that whistleblowers in both the private and public sectors are now facing. More and more, government and corporate whistleblowers are being criminalized for speaking truth to power, even when they act lawfully. Raising concerns about wrongdoing is already hard enough; the threat of being charged with a crime has the ultimate chilling effect. The result is that fewer corrupt activities are brought into the spotlight, which puts all of us at risk.
In order to defend our modern-day heroes against new silencing tactics, and to strengthen the channels for reporting abuse, GAP’s two-pronged legislative advocacy aims to 1) prevent retaliation, and 2) expand the universe of protected employees. Critical to our success, however, is your involvement.
Thank you for standing by whistleblowers, as they shed light on abuses of power that betray the public trust. Information about how to get involved in our current campaigns can be found below.
Campaigns to Prevent Emerging Forms of Retaliation
Provide Federal Whistleblowers Protection Against Criminal Retaliation
Over the past few years, there has been a surge in new whistleblower protection laws against workplace retaliation. Finding it more difficult to justify firing truth-tellers in the face of these buttressed rights, retaliatory managers are increasingly using a new method of retribution: referring whistleblowers for criminal investigations and prosecutions when they engage in protected whistleblowing activity.
While most of these retaliatory criminal investigations find no wrongdoing by the whistleblower (but only after long, terrifying and costly trial waiting periods), the chilling effect emanating from such a heinous action is very real. All employees understand the message, and what speaking out may lead to – the threat of jail.
Ask Congress to pass legislation to defend against this emerging form of retaliation now:
Stop Big Ag from Silencing Whistleblowers
Anti-whistleblower legislation across the country would criminalize individuals who make undercover videos or photographs at agricultural facilities. Imagine, if these laws were enacted in every state, it would be impossible to make an investigative documentary like Food, Inc. Ag Gag laws give agribusinesses free rein to continue illegal and dangerous practices, ranging from unsafe food inspection to animal abuse, and to punish those who try to expose the truth.
These laws have already passed in several states, including Iowa and Utah, and almost went through in California, the nation’s largest agricultural producer. Corporate interests, the main supporters of Ag Gag laws, are making this a state-by-state fight, hoping that we won’t be paying attention. Well, they’re wrong. Join GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign in demanding that Congress take action at the federal level and protect agricultural whistleblowers.
Tell the SEC to Protect Corporate Whistleblowers
Given the horrific results of the financial crisis of 2008, it is essential that Wall Street workers – those who have firsthand knowledge of complex wrongdoing that can damage our economy – feel empowered to raise concerns. It is the duty of all citizens to sound the alarm whenever actions threaten the national and world marketplaces. To this end, action was taken by Congress to strengthen financial worker whistleblower protections as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. But there is more work to be done.
Companies are now employing unscrupulous legal maneuvers to silence potential whistleblowers. From threatening employees with prosecution for “theft” of company property – when the property is in fact evidence of company wrongdoing – to threatening lawsuits in order to enforce secrecy agreements, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must clarify and strengthen its whistleblower program to close these legal loopholes.
Campaigns to Expand the Universe of Protected Employees
Restore Whistleblower Protections for Intelligence Community Contractors
In June 2013, media reports based on NSA contractor Edward Snowden's whistleblowing exposed the government’s privacy-violating surveillance programs. Critics say that he should have worked "within the system" to change things. Not only did Snowden repeatedly raise concerns internally, but under current law intelligence community (IC) government contractors remain virtually defenseless against retaliation when they legally report wrongdoing.
That was not always the case. Six months prior to Snowden’s disclosures, the House Intelligence Committee eliminated existing whistleblower protections for certain IC contractors. In 2012, the Obama Administration issued Presidential Policy Directive 19, which established in-house whistleblower protections for government employees with access to classified information. The directive extends rights against security clearance reprisal actions to IC contractors. Unfortunately, it still leaves these truth-tellers vulnerable to retaliatory investigations, firings, and other common forms of workplace harassment.
Demand that congress restore whistleblower protections for these brave truth-tellers now: