Protect whistleblowers

Oct 04

There’s been a lot said about whistleblowers in the last few years. Depending on who the whistle has been blown on, each side has shown a willingness to forget the benefit such people offer and to attack not just the individual but the process en toto.

Protecting whistleblowers, however, should be a nonpartisan idea. While each side may occasionally suffer embarrassment due to the information revealed on the day, the overall benefit to society is far greater than such momentary considerations.

Whistleblowers have been responsible for keeping us safer, healthier, and more morally aware of our actions as a country for decades. The most famous cases in recent years have revealed illegal activities done by the government. The country should show gratitude for the bravery such acts required, and show a willingness to protect those who did them.

That is not to say there are not negative sides to whistleblowing. These acts are not always clearcut moral or immoral choices. Often, information unrelated to those infractions is revealed. There are unintended victims and unintended consequences to such acts. Whistleblowers who are sloppy in their actions can cause serious damage, and for that sloppiness—and only for that sloppiness—they deserve to face consequences.

We must be careful, however, not to malign the act of whistleblowing itself simply because some famous examples have failed to do their duty properly.

It is also important that we recognize that whistleblowing occurs not just in high profile national cases but every day in more local situations. Those whistleblowers are far less likely to be influenced by grand desires for fame and prestige and are more likely to reveal select, important information.

We would do well to begin holding up those smaller examples as the image of true whistleblowers since their stories are complicated less by national issues. We must also make a point of defending those who blow the whistle on a smaller level with far fewer media attention. Without media attention, it is easier to abuse the rights of such people, and since, as mentioned above, their acts of whistleblowing are uncontroversially good for their communities, such abuses are truly upsetting.

We must, therefore, be constantly vigilant against such abuses. If you see a whistleblower being harassed by their employer, or being pressured to keep silent, then it is your turn to act to defend that person’s rights. Such outright courage may not be required. Instead, be sure to get to know the lawyers who cover such cases in your community.

(As an example, here is a law firm in New York City that deals with such issues.)

All you have to do, then, is notify the employee or the law firm of such issues, and allow the case to proceed from there.

Whistleblowing is a valuable part of our society at every level from the federal government down to local stores. We must all do our part to help whistleblowers protect their rights, even if the immediate issue doesn’t align with our preferred politics or views.

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