Ethical Dilemma

Mar 2, 2017 | 0 comments

“Trump Administration Halts Penalties against Firms That Punish Nuclear Whistleblowers”

According to the article, the Department of Energy has temporarily halted an Obama administration regulation that allowed for civil penalties against federal nuclear contractors that retaliate against whistleblowers who report waste, fraud, abuse and dangerous conditions.

In procedural rules published in the Federal Register, the DOE said the regulation would be frozen from January 31 until March 21 in keeping with President Trump’s “plan for managing the Federal regulatory process at the outset of the new Administration.”

A department summary of the rule says it “stays DOE regulations for the assessment of civil penalties against certain contractors and subcontractors for violations of the prohibition against an employee who reports violations of law, mismanagement, waste, abuse or dangerous/unsafe workplace conditions, among other protected activities, concerning nuclear safety.”

Whistleblower advocates worry the rule could discourage the reporting of violations.

“There is already a chilled atmosphere for DOE whistleblowers and the rule that has now been stayed was meant to help address that problem,” said Lydia Dennett, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight. “Halting the regulation from going forward does nothing to help the department and certainly will not encourage whistleblowers to come forward with legitimate safety concerns.”

Added Louis Clark, executive director and chief executive of the Government Accountability Project: “We have had to engage in pitched litigation against contractors who routinely fire any whistleblower who dares to expose contract fraud, extraordinary public health and safety dangers, and massive contamination of the environment and the workforce — 80 percent of the DOE’s entire budget goes to these contractors.

“This effort has nothing to do with deregulation so that business can thrive. These are government contractors running government facilities,” he continued by email. “These contractors must not be allowed to remain unaccountable, free from meaningful oversight, and able to attack whistleblowers and defend themselves though subsidies supplied by the very taxpayers who they have screwed over.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/02/08/trump-administration-halts-penalties-against-firms-that-punish-nuclear-whistleblowers/?hpid=hp_hp-cards_hp-card-fedgov%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.158eeb73b97f

Discussion Questions

1. What is whistleblower protection?

Whistleblower protection, which traditionally exists on both state and federal levels, lends protection to an individual who reports to the appropriate government authorities a legal violation committed by his or her employer. Essentially, whistleblower protection guarantees that an employer cannot retaliate against its employee for reporting such a violation (i.e., the employee cannot be fired, demoted, etc. for “blowing the whistle.”)

2. Comment on the merits of the Obama administration regulation referenced in the article.

As mentioned in the article, the Obama-era Department of Energy (DOE) regulations provide for the “assessment of civil penalties against certain contractors and subcontractors for violations of the prohibition against an employee who reports violations of law, mismanagement, waste, abuse or dangerous/unsafe workplace conditions, among other protected activities, concerning nuclear safety.”

In your author’s opinion, regardless of political affiliation, nuclear safety is in the best interest of everyone. It seems logical to have government regulation that seeks to encourage employees to report employer activities that might serve to undermine nuclear safety, and discourage employers who sanction employees for choosing to do so.

3. In your reasoned opinion, is government regulation of business “good” or “bad?” Explain your response.

This is an opinion question, so student responses may vary. In your author’s opinion, overgeneralizing whether government regulation is entirely “good” or “bad” is clearly indicative of a lack of critical thought. In your author’s opinion, “good” government regulation is good, while “bad” government is bad. The “devil is in the details” in determining the difference between the two!