Many employees in Hawaii and across the country may witness their places of work engaging in activities that are illegal. In such cases, those employees may fear reporting these incidents out of rear of retaliation. Fellow coworkers or peers may even discourage “snitching.” However, those who do make such reports, known as whistleblowers, have protections.
Breaking down the legislation that protects whistleblowers
Just two and a half months after George H. W. Bush took office, he signed the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 into law. The legislation set out to safeguard federal employees and contractors who report activities that break federal laws, regulations or guidelines. It also applies when federal workers report activities that waste public funds or abuse authority.
When whistleblowers feel that they have suffered mistreatment for their disclosures, they can file complaints with the Office of Special Counsel, a free-standing federal agency that carries out investigatory and prosecutorial duties.
Federal employees aren’t the only Americans eligible for protection
Best known as OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration covers whistleblowers under nearly two dozen federal statutes that were specifically designed to protect them. Although individual cases differ and so may the applicable statute, OSHA looks out for people who work in the private sector, for the U.S. Postal Service, for state or local governments and for Indian tribes.
OSHA’s main goal in safeguarding brave whistleblowers is keeping cases of workplace retaliation at bay. Although supervisors, executives, other decision-makers and business owners typically have more stake in activities affected by whistleblowers, peers and subordinates may also retaliate. Retaliation hurts the well-being of the entire workplace culture.
Most people who end up becoming whistleblowers realize they can’t always protect themselves without outside help. Fortunately, the federal government is ready and able to supply that assistance.