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Secrets, Lies & Whistleblowers

China? Cuba? Ecuador? Russia? While the “Where in the World is Edward Snowden” quest continues, his situation does bring whistleblowers back to center stage. If you’ve been enjoying your summer vacation and somehow missed out on WikiLeaks 2.0, Edward Snowden is a former technical contractor for the United States National Security Agency. Snowden leaked details of several top-secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs to the press. Since then, Snowden has been on the run and ignited a debate about whether he is a whistleblower or a traitor.

From a legal sense, Snowden is probably not a true “whistleblower.” On a federal level, whistleblower claims are mostly covered by the False Claims Act. Federally, whistleblowers may also get the benefit of OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program (WPP). WPP enforces the whistleblower provisions of 20 plus statutes, protecting employees who report violations of workplace safety, airline, commercial carriers, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws.  More information is available here: http://www.whistleblowers.gov/
On a state level, the Kansas Whistleblower Act (K.S.A. 75-2973) protects employees of state agencies from disciplinary action. It does not extend to private employees, but does protect all public employees who report any violation of state and federal law. In addition to the broad public employee protection under the Kansas Whistleblower Act, several individual statutes protect private employees from retaliation. Statutory protections include employees reporting or opposing discrimination under the KAAD and KADEA, reporting abuse of adult family homes or care facilities, reporting medical malpractice, filing a complaint concerning unsafe or hazardous conditions with the Secretary of Labor, and testifying as a witness before the Secretary of Labor.
So, thanks to Snowden for reminding us about whistleblowing. Maybe things will “blow over” for him soon. 

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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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