Bryan Boroughs writes from DC
This summer I'm working at a non-profit whistleblower-protection firm called the Government Accountability Project (GAP). GAP represents clients who have “blown the whistle” on illegal government activity. Usually, these clients were government employees who saw a hidden and illegal danger to the public (faulty aircraft maintenance, poorly constructed levies, etc.). Whistleblowers regularly face harsh retaliation, ranging from termination to decades-long harassment, after bringing a danger to light. GAP helps these clients by helping them with the disclosure process, representing them during litigation, and lobbying for better whistleblower protection laws.
My work as a legal intern is split between litigation and legislative efforts. On the litigation side, I help with intake interviews and legal research. One of my assignments is to work with a client who blew the whistle on unsafe maintenance protocol at a nuclear site. Our client is a terrifically qualified nuclear mechanic who reported his employer for violating maintenance standards at a nuclear reactor. As you can imagine, violating nuclear maintenance standards could have caused catastrophic problems. Unfortunately, rather than being commended for making the plant safer, our client has been fired and blacklisted. He has over 25 years of outstanding work experience and glowing recommendations, but now he cannot find a job in the nuclear industry. So, GAP is helping him with legal action to stop the blacklisting.
On the legislative side, I’ve been helping with GAP’s efforts to get new whistle blower protection laws passed. There are several exciting bills right now in congress. One provides protection for federal employees, and others provide protection for certain industry employees (like food and drug safety or child product safety employees). At different points during the process, congressional staffers come to GAP with questions about the current needs for whistleblowers or the impact certain provisions would have. Helping respond to those questions has been one of my favorite parts of the internship.