States Strengthen Whistleblower Protection Laws

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

States Strengthen Whistleblower Protection Laws

States Moving Past Federal Government in Safeguarding Civil Servant Disclosures

WASHINGTON - Many states are adopting new laws to protect their civil servants
who report waste, fraud and abuse, according to a legal analysis
released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
(PEER). While the level of whistleblower protection varies widely
across the country, several states are enacting safeguards that surpass
those afforded to federal employees.

“Whistleblower laws are a telling measure of transparency and
accountability,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Christine Erickson, who
compiled recent state legislation. “These laws open secure channels for
public servants to communicate with their true employers – the citizens
who pay their salaries.”

Since 2006, when PEER first rated state disclosure laws, more than
20 states have significantly broadened their whistleblower laws. Some
notable changes include:

  • Two states (Minnesota and Washington) now provide protection
    to government scientists confronting suppression or manipulation of
    technical findings. This March, President Obama announced the beginning
    of an effort to craft similar safeguards in federal agencies;
  • Two
    states (South Dakota and New Hampshire) have new laws protecting free
    speech rights of state employees, in reaction to a 2007 U.S. Supreme
    Court decision stripping all government workers of First Amendment
    protection on the job. Today, 12 states have “anti-gag” provisions
    forbidding blanket non-disclosure orders. Similar legislation has been
    pending in Congress for a decade; and
  • Twelve states have new
    laws sanctioning state employee reports of health and safety
    violations. Several of these provisions have procedural protections
    that are stronger than the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act
    (OSHA) whistleblower provisions.

PEER has completed a detailed analysis of every state’s laws,
ranking each on 32 factors affecting the scope of coverage, usefulness
and remedies. By these measures, California, the District of Columbia
and Tennessee have the strongest whistleblower laws while Virginia,
Vermont and New Mexico have the weakest. There is no apparent “red
state” versus “blue state” pattern: Oklahoma, for example, has stronger
laws than New York. Nor is there a clear geographic pattern: the laws
of North Dakota and Louisiana, for example, are substantially stronger
than those of South Dakota and Georgia.

“Significantly, no state is weakening whistleblower protection,”
added Erickson. “Nor is there any evidence that states with broad
whistleblower protections are less able to maintain discipline or
conduct public business in an orderly fashion.”

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See which states have the strongest and weakest whistleblower laws

Look at breakdown of whistleblower protection provisions among states

View highlights of recent state legislation

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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