For Immediate Release: Jun 27, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
States Continue Expanding Whistleblower Protections
Ten States Upgraded Laws in Past Year but Wide Variations in Coverage Remain
Washington, DC — State employees enjoy increasingly strong legal protections for blowing the whistle, according to a new analysis of state legislation released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This past year, states expanded the scope of what type of information may be disclosed and to whom while stiffening penalties for retaliation against whistleblowers.
In the past legislative session, ten states strengthened their whistleblower laws, notably –
- Oregon made violations of its whistleblower law a misdemeanor and required all employees to be notified of their whistleblower rights;
- Colorado extended whistleblower protections to employees of state contractors; and
- South Dakota amended its whistleblowing statute to protect disclosures to its State Government Accountability Board.
“Whistleblower laws are not just checks against official abuse, they are irreplaceable transparency mechanisms,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Whistleblowing is a vital channel through which government workers can communicate with their true employers – the public.”
Since 2006, when PEER first rated state disclosure laws, nearly two-thirds of all states have widened or enhanced their whistleblower laws. No state has weakened or repealed a whistleblower law. While every state has a whistleblower law for state employees, they vary widely –
- Only 13 states protect employees when they blow the whistle to the media;
- Some 13 states do not regard employee reports of danger to public health and safety as protected whistleblowing while 14 do not regard disclosure of waste of public funds as protected;
- Only 7 state whistleblower laws shield disclosures concerning breaches of professional ethics, while only two states address breaches of scientific integrity.
“Ironically, while most people regard disclosures to the press as the epitome of whistleblowing, most states do not recognize it as protected activity,” Ruch added. “There is no indication that states with broader and tougher whistleblower laws are any less efficient or disciplined, while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of these laws serving as effective disinfectants.”
PEER’s State Whistleblower Report Card is a detailed breakdown of each state law that also ranks the states against each other, on a 100-point scale, for breadth of coverage, usability, and strength of remedies