As designated by the U.S. Senate, July 30, 2021 was National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The date marks the anniversary of the United States’ first whistleblower law. In recognition of the day, and in celebration of whistleblowers, several federal agencies released statements.
According to leading whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn, who uncovered the history of the first whistleblower law back in 2011, the number of statements released in celebration of the National Whistleblower Day underscores “a growing recognition within government for recognizing the contemporary importance of celebrating the historical precedent of America’s first whistleblower law.”
This growing recognition within the government is also demonstrated by the participation of government officials and Congress members at the National Whistleblower Center’s (NWC) National Whistleblower Day 2021 celebration. The event featured a number of high-profile government leaders who spoke on the importance of whistleblowers. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, SEC Chair Gary Gensler, and Senator Chuck Grassley were among the featured speakers.
In the lead up to National Whistleblower Day, NWC sent letters to federal agencies requesting that they celebrate the day with educational programming. NWC suggested that programming that informs employees on their whistleblower rights and highlights the whistleblowers’ importance in good government could “change the culture of retaliation against whistleblowers that persists today.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) both responded to NWC’s letter and committed to celebrating National Whistleblower Day. Then, on July 29, the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an agency-wide memo about National Whistleblower Day. The memo recounts the history of the United States’ first whistleblower law and states that “[t]he fact that protections for whistleblowers have existed—no matter how rudimentary at first—for almost as long as our country illustrates the high regard our nation’s founders held for those who root out waste, fraud, and abuse.” The memo further notes that the goal of National Whistleblower Day is “to recognize the whistleblowers of the past and educate the whistleblowers of the future.”
The OIGs of several other federal agencies also released statements for National Whistleblower Day. These include AmeriCorps, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the General Services Administration (GSA), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Department of the Interior (DOI). Most of these statements mention the history behind National Whistleblower Day, assert the OIGs commitment to protecting whistleblowers, and highlight the necessary contributions whistleblowers make.
On July 30, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division released a statement celebrating National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. “We acknowledge whistleblowers’ courage and conviction in the face of adversity — their protection has been critical in exposing illegal activity,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers for the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division in the press release. “This year marks another milestone for these protections with the passage of the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, a law that will further our efforts to root out antitrust crimes that undermine our economy and cheat American consumers, workers, and taxpayers of the benefits of free and fair competition.”
On July 29, several officials within the Department of Labor (DOL) authored a blog post for the DOL’s website about National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. “As we recognize National Whistleblower Appreciation Day on July 30,” the post reads, “we celebrate all of the brave workers… who speak out against unsafe or unfair working conditions, and thank them for their contributions to ensuring a safer, more just workforce for themselves and their co-workers. Because of their actions, lives and livelihoods have been saved.”
The DOL also created a new webpage detailing whistleblower protections. The page includes a video of the speech Secretary Walsh delivered at NWC’s National Whistleblower Day celebration.
While Congress and a growing number of federal agencies recognize and celebrate National Whistleblower Day, July 30 is not permanently designated as the holiday. NWC is campaigning to make National Whistleblower Day permanent. According to NWC, “[b]y requiring every department in the federal government to publicly acknowledge the importance of whistleblowers on July 30th, the President and Congress could take a key step towards a more transparent future.