Can Whistleblowers Be Protected?

07.28.10 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

There are probably many reasons why people may become motivated to break ranks, to violate their non-disclosure agreements, and to disclose classified information to unauthorized persons.  One of the most compelling reasons for doing so is to expose perceived wrongdoing, i.e. to “blow the whistle.”

It obviously follows that the government has an interest in providing safe, secure and meaningful channels for government employees (and contractors) to report misconduct without feeling that they need to go outside the system to get a fair hearing for their concerns.  Unfortunately, would-be whistleblowers today cannot have much confidence in those official channels.

To the contrary, “most employees who reported disclosing wrongdoing or filing a grievance believe that they experienced negative repercussions for doing so,” according to a recent report to the President from the Merit Systems Protection Board.  See “Prohibited Personnel Practices—A Study Retrospective,” June 2010 (at page 16).

“Morale, organizational performance, and (ultimately) the public suffer unnecessarily when employees are reluctant to disclose wrongdoing or to seek redress for inequities in the workplace,” said the MSPB report, which did not specifically address whistleblowing involving classified information.

“Work remains to be done in creating a workplace where employees can raise concerns about organizational priorities, work processes, and personnel policies and decisions without fear of retaliation, and where managers can respond to such concerns openly and constructively,” the Board report said.

See, relatedly, “Whistleblowers have nowhere to turn to challenge retaliatory suspensions” by Mike McGraw, the Kansas City Star, July 24.