Whistleblower Law Updates: Ag Gag, CAARA, VA

A few different updates regarding whistleblower legislation around the country:

Idaho’s Ag Gag Law was Ruled Unconstitutional

A U.S. District Court Judge invalidated Idaho’s anti-whistleblower law on First Amendment grounds. Idaho State Senator Jim Patrick, the Republican who sponsored the bill, believes the decision will likely be appealed.

The “ag-gag” law passed in 2014 and was signed by the Idaho Governor. The law banned covert filming of animal abuse on farms. Seven other states have passed similar laws recently. The Idaho law is the first to be ruled unconstitutional.

CAARA Passes Senate

A few weeks after Senator Grassley and Patrick Leahy reintroduced the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act into the Senate, it was approved by unanimous consent after a few minor changes. The legislation will now go to the House.

The bill protects covered individuals against employer retaliation for lawfully providing information to the federal government that the individual reasonably believes is a violation of the antitrust laws.

It does not offer incentives like the Dodd-Frank whistleblower programs. The U.S. Government has previously expressed concern that it will have a difficult time meeting the higher burden of proof in a criminal trial if the defendant can argue that the informant is biased by monetary incentives. The U.S. already has an immunity program in order to incentivize members of cartels to come forward and report their activity in violation of antitrust law.

It is the second whistleblower law to be passed by the Senate and waiting for action by the House of Representatives. Previously, the Senate unanimously passed the Thune-Nelson Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act which provides incentives to whistleblowers working in the auto industry.

Houses Passes VA Accountability Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would give additional protections to whistleblowers within the Department of Veterans Affairs in the wake of the scandal about patient scheduling that came to light last year. We haven’t talked about this here on the blog before because we generally don’t represent government whistleblowers unless they are reporting corporate misconduct.

However, it is worth noting the potential new protections. The bill would require disclosures of wrongdoing to be passed up the chain of command as well as impose mandatory discipline on any employee who retaliates against a whistleblower. The bill still faces opposition in the Senate and President Obama has threatened to veto it because of the impact it would have on the due process rights of federal employees.

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