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Whistleblower Law Blog

A Day to Honor Whistleblowers?

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It was National Whistleblower Appreciation Day this week. How did you celebrate?

Don’t kick yourself if you missed the event: It was proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) as a one-time commemoration via a resolution in the U.S. Senate — on the very day the recognition was supposed to happen, July 30, 2013.

The Senate approved the designation unanimously, but required no specific action.

Instead the text of the resolution, co-sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), encouraged the government to mark the day by informing people of their whistleblowing rights and acknowledging the beneficial role of whistleblowers.

The resolution got positive press and praise from whistleblower groups, but it’s unclear whether Sen. Grassley — a longtime champion of whistleblowing — will try to make it an annual event.

Some whistleblower lawyers believe he should.

“Blowing the whistle is a patriotic and often selfless act,” said R. Scott Oswald, managing principal of The Employment Law Group, P.C. “Our country should be honoring citizens who embody its ideals.”

So why July 30, of all days? Turns out it was the 235th anniversary of what Sen. Grassley and others have called “the first whistleblower legislation in the United States.”

On July 30, 1778, members of the Continental Congress unanimously called whistleblowing “the duty of all persons in the service of the United States,” and agreed to support some whistleblowing sailors in a retaliatory lawsuit filed against them by Commodore Esek Hopkins, the former Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, whom they had accused of “inhuman and barbarous” treatment of prisoners.

“With no legal protection or court precedent to shield themselves against reprisal, these brave men ultimately became what we believe to [be] America’s first whistleblowers,” said Sen. Grassley.

Whistleblowing gathered steam through America history, from President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the False Claims Act all the way to 2013, when citizen whistleblowers are helping to reclaim tens of billions of dollars that have — in essence — been stolen from taxpayers.

“No one needs a ticker-tape parade just for doing the right thing,” said Mr. Oswald of The Employment Law Group. “But a statement of appreciation from their government? A day on which we celebrate standing up for justice? Why not make this an annual tradition?”

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