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Constantine Cannon Partner Gordon Schnell Published in Star Tribune on the Importance of National Whistleblower Appreciation Day

Posted  August 1, 2022
By Gordon Schnell

Last Saturday, July 30, 2022 was National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.  While there was not a lot of media attention on the event, the Star Tribune published a commentary by Constantine Cannon Whistleblower Partner Gordon Schnell on why the Day is so important and deserves so much more attention than it ever receives.

As Schnell writes, the Day is not “just another made-up holiday to celebrate the peculiar passions or pastimes of a particularly fervent few,” like National Doughnut Day or National Smiling Day, or the many other “national days” promoting a favorite food or activity.  Instead, it is a special day to honor whistleblowers and the critical role they play in safeguarding our health and well-being.

Driven by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and their bipartisan Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, National Whistleblower Appreciation Day was first introduced by Senate resolution in 2013.  The Senate has unanimously passed the same resolution every year since.

As Schnell explains, July 30 is the celebrated day because on this day in 1778, the Continental Congress passed the country’s first whistleblower law.  It followed the jailing of two American sailors who reportedly blew the whistle on their commander for torturing British soldiers.  The newly formed government wanted to show its clear support for speaking truth to power by making it the duty of all persons in the service of the United States . . . to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct . . . committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states.”

According to Schnell, two and half centuries have past, and whistleblowers face the same competing dynamic.  On the one hand, there remains strong Congressional support for whistleblowers and an ever-expanding bevy of legislation to protect and reward them.  This includes the False Claims Act, the Dodd-Frank Act, freshly minted programs for whistleblowers reporting on auto safety issues, money laundering, and foreign corruption, and more programs just around the corner.

On the other hand, Schnell writes, despite this strong Congressional backing, whistleblowers remain the target of significant scorn and retaliation, much of it extending to mainstream America too.  As a striking example, Schnell points to how Merriam-Webster and Thesaurus.com portray whistleblowers.  The vast majority of synonyms they use to represent whistleblowers to their tens of millions of monthly visitors are deeply derogatory: Betrayer, Bigmouth, Fink, Rat, Sleazemonger, Snitch, Squealer, Stoolie, Tattletale, Troublemaker, just to name a few.

Schnell’s ultimate point is that no matter how much legislation Congress puts forth supporting whistleblowers, “until we truly welcome them and their noble quests with open arms and understanding, their persecution and mistreatment will continue, scaring off others from stepping forward in the face of fraud or injustice.”

Schnell concludes with a call for a more prominent recognition of the critical role of whistleblowers.  One adopted by all of Congress, hailed by the private sector, and embraced by the rest of us, “in gratitude to these front-line fraud fighters for their sacrifice and service.”  In the meantime, Schnell asks “if you have not already done so, thank a whistleblower for a job well done.”

To read the full commentary in Star Tribune, click here.

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