Landmark Decision in Ukrainian Whistleblower Case; Whistleblower Reinstated and Paid

Airplane outside of an air terminal

A Ukrainian whistleblower’s case received a landmark judgment from an appeals court. According to an article from The Solidarity Center, an appeals court recently confirmed a lower court decision from 2021 that deemed a whistleblower had been illegally fired in an act of whistleblower retaliation.

Olena Bebeshko was a “leader of the Independent Trade Union of Aviation Workers of Ukraine at the VIP terminal” at the Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. She blew the whistle on corruption at the terminal, reporting it to Ukraine’s National Anticorruption Bureau. The article states that after she reported the corruption, “Bebeshko and other terminal workers suffered harassment and violent attacks.” The union of Natalia Zhulinska states that she “was fired after refusing to ignore improper activities and almost entirely blinded in a 2017 acid attack.” Zhulinska’s union says that before the acid attack, “her car was destroyed by fire, with explosives and weapons planted inside to frame her for the attempt on her life.”

“Bebeshko was fired in 2021 after directing corruption allegations from the union to the National Anticorruption Bureau,” the article states. A lower court ordered that she be reinstated, but “she was denied admittance to her workplace and her pay cut by one-third during the appeals process.” Through the appeals court’s confirmation of the lower court decision that her firing was illegal, Bebeshko will be reinstated immediately, “at full pay,” and will also receive compensation of $5,300. The Solidarity Center reports that Bebeshko “is one of the very few workers to have won official whistleblower status in Ukraine.”

In January of 2020, a whistleblower protection law in Ukraine came into force: the law offers whistleblowers protection and “financial rewards for important tips useful in investigations of corruption cases where the damage to the state is more than UAH 10 million (US $420,000),” an article from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

The Solidarity Center reports that workers have brought up concerns about corruption at the airport’s VIP terminal since 2014 “after new management took over following a change of government. Loyalists willing to engage in, or facilitate, corruption allegedly retained their jobs while 50 workers were laid off and their positions turned over to new managers’ friends and family.” The article states that the following year, workers in the terminal “organized and affiliated to the Ukrainian Independent Trade Union of Aviation Workers of Ukraine to collectively protect their jobs, and the public, from corrupt practices at the terminal.”

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