Employment Law Journal

Whistleblower protection expanded for public employees

By Bruce D. Voss

With the backing of public worker unions, the 2011 Hawaii State Legislature gave additional protections to public employees who report actual or suspected violations of public contracts.
The Legislature amended HRS Chapter 378 to make clear that a public employer shall not discharge, threaten, or discriminate against a public employee who reports or is about to report any violation of law or any violation of a contract executed by the state, county, or federal government.

The new law was justified based on a policy of encouraging public workers to report violations of government contracts without fear of intimidation or retaliation by their supervisors. While the stated legislative goal is laudable, it remains to be seen whether it actually promotes more reporting of government contract waste and abuse, or whether the law is used more as a shield by recalcitrant workers seeking to deter or defer legitimate discipline by their supervisors.

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