Respected Accountability Blog Reviews Whistleblower’s Handbook

Reposted from the blog Government Accountability is a Citizen’s Responsibility

Book Review: Stephen Martin Kohn, The Whistleblower’s Handbook

By: Charlotte Yee

The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself. By Stephen Martin Kohn. Guilford, CT, Lyons Press, 2011, 332 pp., $16.95/paperback.

Writes Stephen Martin Kohn:

"One of the tragedies in whistleblower cases is having to tell an employee “who did the right thing,” who saved lives or saved consumers millions of dollars, that there are no good laws to protect him or her, or that a deadline was missed."

In his new book released today, accomplished whistleblower attorney Kohn outlines and describes the laws available to would-be employee truth-tellers in the United States. For anyone who has blown the whistle, or who may be blowing the whistle on their employer, this is a must-read. It is comprehensive and encompasses the myriad of laws protecting truth-tellers on the job. It is also eye-opening. Despite widely-held belief, most employees have few rights on the job when it comes to revealing fault, defect or fraud. Writes Kohn:

"The level of protection you have when you blow the whistle depends on the work you do, what you blew the whistle on, and in what state you reside. If your industry is not covered under a federal whistleblower law, and your state has not recognized whistleblower rights, you are out of luck."

All the more reason you need to read his book, in this reviewer’s opinion.

Kohn’s book focuses heavily on the Qui Tam laws available to whistleblowers. These are statutes that permit whistleblowers to collect a share of the recovery while returning the remainder to the Federal Government defrauded of it in the first place. While not explicitly laying out the numbers on attorney fees, it becomes quite clear through other numbers that this is the prize program. Prevailing whistleblowers walk away with millions, the government recovers millions, and the attorneys — very likely — likewise: all without the taxpayers ever having to pay a dime of it.

It’s not just a book on Qui Tam, however. It’s a comprehensive guide to the laws protecting workers reporting fraud, mismanagement and safety violations. Kohn’s book covers everything a would-be whistleblower needs to know: whom to tell, how to tell it, and what to do next. It’s a wealth of information on protected disclosures, mandatory elements under the law and the extent of pretext the employer will use to discredit the truth-teller. And yes, there’s also a section on recoverable attorney fees.

This website has had its primary focus on federal employee whistleblowers. On this subject, Kohn is brief but succinct. In one page, he says precisely what you need to know. Writes Kohn on the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), “Cases are heard before “administrative judges,” . . .AJs do not need to be licensed attorneys and are not subject to judicial qualification.” Kohn then goes on to highlight other arenas that federal employees under certain circumstances may find whistleblower relief outside of this administrative court.

Kohn saves his most biting critique of false whistleblower protection not for MSPB though. Instead, he opts for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration under the US Department of Labor. Kohn writes, “In 2009 OSHA received over twelve hundred retaliation complaints, yet they filed lawsuits on behalf of only four workers.” Kohn notes that under OSHA only token settlements are available to those who risk their own livelihoods for the safety of others. Absent the Secretary of Labor bringing action in court, no other remedy is available to the aggrieved.

Perhaps the most amazing part of Kohn’s book is saved for the very end, the back cover to be exact. The Whistleblower’s Handbook is being marketed as a layman’s guide to exposing workplace wrongdoing. It does precisely what it sets out to do. In paperback, this invaluable source of information and reference retails for just $16.95 and can be purchased at leading book retailers, or directly from the source. Proceeds will go toward National Whistleblower Center programs for furthering advocacy for whistleblowers. Read it. For any would-be whistleblower with a perception of protection under the law, it may be the best investment you can make.

==Disclosure: This book reviewer is currently an appellant being represented on an affordable basis by David Colapinto, partner of Stephen Kohn at Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto. As a sidenote though, given the abysmal rate of return for federal employees vis-a-vis other venues available to attorneys, Kohn’s book only underscores the point that their efforts on my behalf make a statement about the need for stronger whistleblower protection for civil servants. I don’t believe their solicitude has in any way altered my viewpoint on the book. For $17, you can get a well-written, well-organized manual that will save you from the grief of not taking the proper steps to protect yourself too.

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