July 30 was National Whistleblower Day, and numerous U.S. federal agencies recognized the day by publishing blog posts, public statements, and informational Twitter threads. Here’s a list of federal agencies and offices that recognized National Whistleblower Day this year.
Securities and Exchange Commission
Gurbir S. Grewal, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Director of the Division of Enforcement, published a statement in honor of National Whistleblower Day and highlighted the SEC’s whistleblower program. “Since issuing its first award in 2012, the SEC has awarded more than $1.3 billion to 278 individuals,” Grewal’s statement reads. “With the help of these whistleblowers, the SEC brought enforcement actions ordering monetary sanctions of approximately $5 billion.”
Additionally Grewal notes that Fiscal Year 2021 was a record-breaking year for the SEC’s whistleblower program: during that time, “the program broke a number of fiscal year records, including the number of whistleblower awards issued, the total dollar amount awarded to whistleblowers, and the number of whistleblower tips received,” according to prior WNN reporting.
Grewal also mentions the costs — “both personal and professional” —that some whistleblowers pay for speaking out. “The SEC’s whistleblower rules prohibit any person from taking an action to impede another from contacting the SEC to report a possible securities law violation,” Grewal says in the statement. He also mentions that the Dodd-Frank Act “expanded protections for whistleblowers and broadened the prohibitions against retaliation by enabling the SEC to take legal action against employers who have retaliated against whistleblowers.”
“We applaud the courage of whistleblowers who step forward and report unlawful conduct. Whistleblower protections are a cornerstone of the SEC’s whistleblower program and we are committed to enforcing these protections to stop efforts to impede individuals from coming forward with information,” Grewal concludes.
Department of Labor
The Department of Labor (DOL) also recognized National Whistleblower Appreciation Day in a blog post that highlighted an enforcement action the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) took in favor of whistleblowers and underscored whistleblower laws in place for workers.
The post begins with a case in which two workers were disciplined (one was fired) for telling their employer, a transport company, that they were “too sick and tired to drive safely and felt they couldn’t operate commercial vehicles.” An OSHA investigation found that the company retaliated against the two employees; OSHA then “ordered the company to reinstate the fired employee and remove disciplinary points from their records.” Additionally, the agency “ordered the company to train managers, post a notice informing their employees of workers’ protection rights under federal law, and revise company policy to comply with the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.”
“Under federal law, workers have the right to raise concerns if they believe their rights are being violated in the workplace,” the blog post states. The post also notes that “miners have the right to report hazardous conditions and can refuse to work in unsafe conditions” under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.
Workers are similarly protected for raising concerns about pay: “if employers don’t pay workers all the wages they’ve earned, they can speak up without fear of retaliation.” The DOL’s “Wage and Hour Division enforces laws on the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor requirements, as well as laws about working conditions and payment for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers,” the blog post reads. “ The division protects workers’ rights to family and medical leave, too. All workers protected by any of the laws that the division enforces is protected by their anti-retaliation provisions.”
The blog post celebrates whistleblowers and the change they bring about to workplaces in making them safer. “…we celebrate all the brave workers, like these drivers, who speak out against unsafe or unfair working conditions, and thank them for their contributions to ensuring safer, more just conditions for themselves and their co-workers. Because of their actions, lives and livelihoods have been saved,” the post reads. The DOL reiterates its commitment “to protecting every worker’s right to speak up without fear of retaliation if they are mistreated, denied their rights or concerned about safety.” The post acknowledges that “many workers are not protected by their employers when they speak up and need a place to turn if they’re punished, lose their job or are simply afraid to say something directly to their employer.”
The blog post also outlines the different ways in which retaliation can take shape and also reiterated the harm employers who retaliate against workers can cause.
Office of Personnel Management
The Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Director Kiran A. Ahuja and OPM Inspector General Krista A. Boyd published a message emphasizing the office’s gratitude towards whistleblowers. Both offices “truly value the role that whistleblowers play in government oversight. Whistleblowers, dedicated public servants who simply have the resolve to do the right thing, demonstrate great courage when reporting wrongdoing in the workplace.”
“At OPM, we strive to make sure that whistleblowers feel safe to come forward, speak frankly, and do what is right without fear of retaliation or harassment,” the letter states. The letter provides information for whistleblowers to file complaints, anonymously if they so choose.
Social Security Office of Inspector General
On July 29, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Social Security Administration (SSA) tweeted recognition of National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. On the same day, they announced that the account would be posting some “fast facts” and information regarding whistleblowers in the next few days. On August 1, the SSA OIG posted a definition of a whistleblower in a continuation of recognizing National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.
Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General
Sean O’Donnell, the Inspector General for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sent a letter to EPA colleagues on July 28 commemorating National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. “It may just be a game, but when the whistle blows, play stops. The rules matter; they make a difference. When the flag is thrown, the red card is raised, or the strikes are called, we can trust that the game is being played fair and square,” O’Donnell began his letter.
His letter touches upon the history of whistleblowing laws in the U.S. and reaffirmed his “commitment to whistleblower rights and to ensuring a safe and productive work environment for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board employees.” He also provides information for employees who may want to blow the whistle.
The EPA also published an 11-minute podcast episode about whistleblower protection “and the OIG’s roles in protecting scientific integrity and investigating research misconduct.”
Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has been posting content on its Twitter feed about Whistleblower Appreciation Week and National Whistleblower Day. On July 30, the OIG’s account posted an animated video called “5 Things to Know About Whistleblowers.”
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) posted a short, informational tweet on July 31 linking to an informational webpage about blowing the whistle in the Intelligence Community (IC).
Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General also posted a tweet about National Whistleblower Day that directed viewers to a webpage that has more information on SBA fraud and how to report it.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service
Earlier in the month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service published a webpage about National Whistleblower Day and the day’s history. The webpage also includes information about the USDA Whistleblower Protection Coordinator, which “is committed to educating USDA’s workforce about whistleblower retaliation and associated protections.”
Additionally, the blog post announced the creation of training modules relating to whistleblowers “for all Title 5 USDA Federal employees.” One training “introduces whistleblower protection legislation, guidance on filing a whistleblower complaint, and actions one can take if retaliation occurs.” An additional training is for federal supervisors and covers whistleblower protections: the supervisors must complete the training “upon appointment and annually.”
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Finally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recognized National Whistleblower Day in a blog post. The post says that the Bureau is “proud” to celebrate the day and highlights how whistleblowers “help the CFPB protect consumers and support the rule of law.”
“The CFPB has welcomed whistleblower allegations since its inception and continues to take concrete steps to ensure that whistleblowers are supported and protected,” the blog post says. The post also notes: “Since the CFPB began accepting whistleblower allegations, the use of data and technology in nearly every consumer financial market has transformed the financial landscape.” According to the post the CFPB recently “streamlined how tech workers can alert us to potential violations of federal consumer financial laws.”
The blog post also contains information about the Consumer Financial Protection Act, which “provides anti-retaliation protections for employees of providers of consumer financial products and services who share information regarding potential violations.”