Senate Approves Increased Whistleblower Protections

Harrisburg – The state Senate today approved two measures to strengthen Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law, according to Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20).  Baker chairs the Senator Labor and Industry Committee, which advanced the bills earlier this week.

The first House Bill 118 extends whistleblower protections to employees of nonprofits and private companies that receive public money to perform services.

The second House Bill 185 ensures equal coverage to legislative workers by adding the General Assembly and its agencies to the definition of a public body.

Other changes include granting the power and authority to investigate whistleblower violations to the Office of Inspector General and increasing fines and penalties.

Baker delivered the following floor remarks encouraging affirmative votes:

“There are many ways by which we can bring substantial reform to state government, improving the legislative process and providing protection against wrongdoing.

A common criticism is that we need to change the culture.  An effective means for doing so is to clear the way for individuals of conscience to report wrongdoing, through whistleblower protection.

There are recent, unfortunate examples that underscore the necessity of effective whistleblower protection.

A key element of the widespread corruption in Luzerne County was employees who stood by, saying and doing nothing, for fear of losing their jobs.  Intimidation is a primary weapon wielded by wrongdoers.  Corruption is much easier to carry out when eyes are averted, ears are stopped up, and voices are silent.

Another appalling aspect of the national scandal over deplorable VA care involves reports of officials trying to find out who revealed information about delayed treatments and fudged recordkeeping.

When individuals have confidence that they can report their suspicions or turn over evidence without retribution, wrongdoing can be exposed in the early stages, limiting the cost and the damage to institutions and to public confidence in the system.

What these bills do will strike Pennsylvanians as common sense steps.  They extend coverage to two groups who are likely to be aware of wrongdoing but who are quite vulnerable to retaliation – the private contractors doing business with the state, and the at-will employees who work for us and for the legislative agencies.  The Inspector General is brought into enforcement.  An assurance of confidentiality in most circumstances is given.  And the penalties for violating the act are substantially strengthened.  That is the proper balance – protection for those who do the right thing, and sanctions against those who do the wrong thing.

By passing these bills, we make those who are committed to clean and accountable government safer and more secure when they decide to expose the actions of wrongdoers.  It is a fundamental building block for reform.”

Contact:

Jen Wilson
jwilson@pasen.gov
(570) 675-3931