Should the Whistleblower Protection Act extend to cover non-governmental employees?A “whistleblower” is someone who informs authorities about wrongdoings, often criminal in nature, going on in...

Should the Whistleblower Protection Act extend to cover non-governmental employees?

A “whistleblower” is someone who informs authorities about wrongdoings, often criminal in nature, going on in their companies. Whistleblowers often face backlash for their revelations, losing their jobs and worse. In 1989, Congress passed the “Whistleblower Protection Act” which protects federal employees from retaliation. Should the same protections be afforded to non-governmental employees who reveal damaging information about their employers? 

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

OSHA, the governing body of the whistleblower protection plan, considers it the exercise of a right to inform about dangerous, hazardous, criminal or other activities. It is logical that this same right exists for employees in private enterprise.

While changes to employment law seem massive at first, there have many made throughout the 20th century that are accepted as commonplace now. The idea of "right" implies that, yes, the right should be applied to employees in the private sector. I agree with the implication: the right to whistleblow and the corollary right to be protected from reprisal or retaliation belong to private sector employees as surely as to government employees.

I predict it will come about fairly rapidly that this will be added to employer disclaimers. Perhaps the future disclaimer might say something like: "We do not discriminate based on whistleblower potential or past whistleblower activity." Since OSHA enacted its regulation, Congress has expanded it to cover other situations. Private sector employees will be next, I suspect.

The OSH Act prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees for exercising their rights under the OSH Act. These rights include filing an OSHA complaint, participating in an inspection [etc] ... Since passage of the OSH Act in 1970, Congress has expanded OSHA's whistleblower authority to protect workers from discrimination under twenty-one federal laws. [italics and bold added]

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While the Federal government and many states have whistleblower protection for public employees, the notion of providing this in private enterprise is a little troubling.  This is likely to encourage a climate that is not favorable in the workplace for a number of reasons.  First, there is nothing to stop disgruntled employees from making false reports, which must then be investigated, and during the course of investigation, the employee effectively has carte blanche and cannot be fired.  Second, such protection is paranoia-inducing for all employees, from the highest management down to the rank and file.  In today's world, in which so many private workplaces already inculcate a feeling of Big Brotherism in the work setting, do we really want more fear and trembling, often for no good reason?  The basis of the present whistleblower statutes is to encourage government employees to care enough about taxpayer dollars to guard them properly, without fear of reprisal.  In private employment, whose dollars are being protected, and do we want such negative fallout to protect corporate profits?  I have nothing against government regulation, but this seems too intrusive to me, with not enough justification for the passage of such statutes.   If private enterprise chooses to, it can set such a policy or reward those who blow the whistle without any statutes at all.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wouldn't employees of private companies still have the ability file suit against their employers if they were fired in retaliation for reporting a violation of some kind? I think that, even without whistleblower protection, they would have at least some recourse.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, I think that any whistleblower should be protected.  There are companies that do terrible things, and their employees know about them, but if they tell anyone about it they risk losing their jobs and possibly even risk being sued.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question