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Ring Holes and Tabs

whistleblower retaliation

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Hostile Work Environment: Retaliation, Harassment and Escalation

Most whistleblowers first try discussions within the workplace. In functional workplaces, this works. Sometimes, however, talking backfires. No one likes to face retaliation, much less the whistleblowing consequences--harassment escalation cycle and hostile work environment--discussed here. When their workplaces get crazy, some victim whistleblowers quit. Other civil servants bow out under fire, labeled snitches or worse. Still others keep working conscientiously at reform, reporting the harassment and usually using resources outside the agency, including lawyers or other professionals to deal with the stress. Leaving seems simple, yet it both eliminates the prospect of reform and invites serious career consequences. On the other hand, working through the dysfunction takes patience and equanimity, time and money. And retaliating supervisors are often praised or even promoted.

Civil Service Remedies and Other Whistleblower Appeal Processes

The Federal Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), on its face appears to protect most federal employees who communicate through the chain of command or administrative processes. For many, the promise has proved hollow. Narrow bureaucratic interpretations refusing to acknowledge wrongful terminations and shortsighted court decisions condoning workplace retaliation have repeatedly forced Congress to reiterate its support for federal whistleblowers. Agencies and appellate routes differ significantly in sympathy. Arbitrators chosen pursuant to grievance procedures may be most favorable, yet unavailable to nonunion whistleblowers. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) protects a handful of whistleblowers each year. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) enforces most civil service remedies, yet its record is checkered at best. Chances with the EEOC, Labor Department or regular federal district courts (for constitutional or select statutory violations) are better.

Whistleblower Resources

Here are links to various whistleblowers' web pages, as well as to a variety of books and organizational web pages. Additional links include a self-help grab bag of psychological and spiritual resources, as well as legislative interfaces for those favoring collective action.


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