National Whistleblower Day Showcases Government Support for Whistleblowers

Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP

July 30, 2023 is officially National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. For the tenth consecutive year, the United States Senate unanimously passed a Resolution designating the day, which commemorates the United States’ first whistleblower law and acknowledges the immense sacrifices and contributions made by whistleblowers.

The bipartisan support for the Resolution, the growing number of federal agencies implementing programming in recognition of the day, and the many appearances over the years of high-ranking government officials at National Whistleblower Day celebrations demonstrate an increasing awareness of the importance of whistleblowers across the U.S. government.

Senate Unanimously Passes National Whistleblower Day Resolution

This year’s National Whistleblower Day Resolution was introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), co-chairs of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, alongside a bipartisan group of twenty other senators. The Senate unanimously passed the Resolution on July 13.

The Resolution notes that whistleblowers “risk their careers, jobs, and reputations by reporting waste, fraud, and abuse to the proper authorities” and “save the taxpayers of the United States billions of dollars each year and serve the public interest by ensuring that the United States remains an ethical and safe place.”

The significance of the date of July 30 is also outlined in the Resolution. On July 30, 1778 the Continental Congress passed the United States’ first whistleblower law: a bill which stated that “it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.’’

“The cornerstone of the United States’ government is accountability to the people it serves. Whistleblowers put their jobs and reputations on the line to uphold that bedrock principle. Our laws should empower their oversight and ensure they can come forward without fear of retribution,” said Senator Grassley when introducing the Resolution. “Protecting whistleblowers is good government, plain and simple, and that’s something we can all get behind.”

“Whistleblowers are brave individuals who sound the alarm on fraud, waste, and abuse of public resources,” added Senator Wyden. “It’s time for Congress to step up and support whistleblowers by strengthening laws that allow them to raise issues without fear of retaliation. Whistleblowers are the fail-safe for our government and I’ll fight tooth and nail to shore up protections that bolster our democratic institutions.”

The importance of the National Whistleblower Day Resolutions have been repeatedly emphasized by whistleblower advocates. “Champions like Senators Grassley and Wyden help to safeguard our democracy and have shown whistleblowers that they have allies in Congress,” said Siri Nelson, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center. “These critical resolutions help whistleblowers continue to speak up, and help whistleblower advocates to continue fighting for greater whistleblower protections.”

Federal Agencies Recognize National Whistleblower Day

In addition to designating July 30 as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, the Resolution encourages each executive agency to recognize the day by “(A) informing employees, contractors working on behalf of the taxpayers of the United States, and members of the public about the legal right of a United States citizen to ‘‘blow the whistle’’ to the appropriate authority by honest and good faith reporting of misconduct, fraud, misdemeanors, or other crimes; and (B) acknowledging the contributions of whistleblowers to combating waste, fraud, abuse, and violations of laws and regulations of the United States.”

Over the years, a growing number of federal agencies have implemented programming and distributed materials in recognition of National Whistleblower Day. In 2022, a wide-range of agencies, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Personnel Management, and Department of Labor, celebrated National Whistleblower Day in a variety of ways, from blog posts to informational Twitter threads.

Whistleblower Network News (WNN) reports that a number of agencies have already confirmed their plans to celebrate National Whistleblower Day in 2023. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) informed WNN that: “For this year’s National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, the Secretary will once again send a message to all employees to emphasize their important role in this process and remind them that they can report any issues through their chain of command, VA leadership, the Office of Inspector General, or the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. We also have ongoing online and in-person training on whistleblowing throughout the year, reminding employees that if they come forward to ‘blow the whistle’ on wrongdoing, they will be treated with dignity and confidentiality.”

Earlier this year, the National Whistleblower Center sent letters to the heads of federal agencies urging them to implement programming for National Whistleblower Day. “Widespread acknowledgement across the federal government of the importance of whistleblowers could change the culture of retaliation against whistleblowers that persists today,” the letters explain.

Government Officials Speak at National Whistleblower Day Celebration

For the past ten years, the National Whistleblower Center has hosted an event in celebration of National Whistleblower Day. Over the years, a number of high-ranking government officials have given remarks at the event, which also features speeches and panels by whistleblowers and whistleblower advocates.

In 2021, for example, the Secretary of Labor, Chair of the SEC, Inspector General of the DOJ, and the Special Counsel of the United States all gave remarks at the celebration. That year they were joined by eight different members of Congress.

On July 27, Senator Grassley will give remarks at this year’s National Whistleblower Day celebration, which is being held on Capitol Hill.

A Campaign to Make National Whistleblower Day Permanent

While the U.S. Senate has recognized National Whistleblower Day each of the past ten years, a group of whistleblowers believe it is time for a permanent designation for National Whistleblower Day. They have thus launched a campaign calling on President Biden to sign an Executive Order permanently designating July 30 as National Whistleblower Day and requiring all federal agencies to implement programming in recognition of the day.

“The time has come for a culture change, for President Biden to elevate whistleblowers to the status they deserve as people of integrity,” FBI whistleblower Jane Turner wrote in an op-ed explaining the campaign. “It is time to support whistleblowers by making National Whistleblower Day permanent. The world needs to know the United States government stands behind whistleblowers, provides recognition, and honors their sacrifices.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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