UKRAINE, Dec. 17, 2019 – On October 17 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed new whistleblower reforms into law. Current questions about Ukraine’s commitment to fight corruption complicate Zelensky’s efforts to implement his campaign promise to provide rewards of 10% for whistleblowers who expose corruption. Most significant is the reform’s anti-retaliation shield, which now provides stronger protection than U.S. law in several key areas:
- Protection for all citizens against all who retaliate, not just employees’ protection against employers who challenge corruption;
- Protection against all forms of retaliation, including physical violence and civil and criminal liability slap suits, not just workplace-related harassment;
- Global best practice standards to receive and protect anonymous and confidential disclosures, not just limited confidentiality rights;
- Equal rights for intelligence community employees, not just severely limited channels for both speech and due process;
- The right to publicly disclose classified information when necessary to fight corruption, breaking from the prosecution of public necessity whistleblowers for espionage;
- Psychological assistance to deal with stress from retaliation, not just traditional legal “make-whole” remedies that leave traumatized victims without mental healthcare;
- Free legal aid, not just weak and unpredictable options to reclaim legal fees in court or through settlement;
- Mandatory reporting channels at all major public and private institutions to work with and protect whistleblowers, not just laws that neglect to require the private sector live up to the same standards as the public sector for reporting channels; and
- Freedom to choose between an internal office, administrative agency, or court to defend rights, not just limited venues that perpetuate extreme case backlog and employer bias.
Government Accountability Project has advocated for credible whistleblower rights in Ukraine to deal with corruption for years. A detailed list of the new law’s strengths and weaknesses is available here. Ukraine has applied for European Union (E.U.) membership, and new legislation will be necessary to meet E.U. rules for whistleblower protection. Ukraine will still have work to do to amend their law which only covers corruption, and the E.U. Whistleblower Protection Directive covers nearly all laws, including the environment, public health, and public safety.
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Government Accountability Project Senior Legal and International Analyst, Samantha Feinstein, said:“Anti-corruption whistleblowers in Ukraine now have far stronger rights than in the U.S. Ukraine has set a new standard for the U.S. to match. While the new law needs more work to match the E.U.’s requirements, it is a useful starting point for reform. Most fundamentally, it protects all citizens against all forms of retaliation. The most striking achievement in Ukraine’s new law is equal rights for any citizen including intelligence workers, a global best practice protection that neither the E.U. Whistleblower Directive, nor the U.S. has yet achieved.”
See also Government Accountability Project’s Samantha Feinstein and Luke Drabyn’s Op-Ed in the Atlantic Council urging Ukraine to pass a whistleblower law.Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. www.whistleblower.org