One in Five States Strengthened Whistleblower Laws this Year

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Email: info@peer.org

One in Five States Strengthened Whistleblower Laws this Year

Cash-Strapped States See Whistleblowers as Assets in Fighting Waste and Fraud

WASHINGTON -  During the past 12 months, ten states have measurably improved legal
protections for state employees who blow the whistle, according to a
new analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER).  Many states now afford their employees stronger
statutory shields than those covering federal workers, as a continuing
Congressional stalemate has stalled federal whistleblower reform
legislation for more than a decade.

The most dramatic
changes came in two states, New Mexico and Vermont, which previously
had the two weakest laws in the country.  As a result of comprehensive
legislation enacted in recent months, New Mexico now has the 4th
strongest and Vermont, the 6th strongest, according to a rating scale
devised by PEER.  The other eight states making substantive expansions
of whistleblower coverage in the past 12 months include Alabama,
Alaska, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and
Utah (these latter two states, however, still have among the weakest
laws overall).  

Since 2006, when PEER first rated state
disclosure laws, more than 30 states have significantly broadened their
whistleblower laws.  Several states are breaking new ground and going
beyond protections available to federal employees, including: 

  • Two
    states (Minnesota and Washington) now provide protection to government
    scientists confronting suppression or manipulation of technical
    findings.  In March 2009, President Obama proposed safeguards for
    scientists but failed to implement the proposal;
  • Today,
    14 states have "anti-gag" provisions forbidding non-disclosure orders. 
    Similar legislation is still pending in Congress; and
  • Six
    states allow whistleblowers the option of a jury trial, a route largely
    foreclosed to federal workers.  In addition, several states have
    procedural protections that are stronger than the federal Occupational
    Safety and Health Act (OSHA) whistleblower provisions.

"In
just the last few years, the majority of states have passed greater
protections for whistleblowers and not a single state has weakened
whistleblower protection," stated PEER Staff Counsel Christine
Erickson, who compiled the state legislation updates.  "Even fiscally
challenged states see whistleblowers as means to save scarce taxpayer
dollars from being wasted or misused."

PEER has
completed a detailed analysis of every state's laws, ranking each on 32
factors affecting the scope of coverage, usefulness and strength of
remedies.  By these measures, California, the District of Columbia and
Tennessee have the strongest whistleblower laws while Virginia, South
Dakota and Georgia have the weakest.

"By contrast with the growing attention being paid by states, we are
concerned that whistleblower protection does not appear to be a
priority in the Obama administration," stated PEER Executive Director
Jeff Ruch.  "The last time we heard the President speak to the
importance of whistleblowers to an open democracy was when he addressed
the Parliament of Ghana."

 

###

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.

Share This Article

More in: