State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, wants to restore protections for government workers who report inappropriate behavior in the workplace. The Senate committee on Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence could vote soon on whether to reinstate the safeguards that were removed when a contentious discrimination bill, Senate bill 43, was enacted last year.
“When there’s wrongdoing in a government agency or office, the best way and sometimes the only way to find out about it is if somebody blows the whistle,” says Schupp.
Last year, complaints about the care of patients at the St. Louis Veterans Home sparked multiple investigations. Workers questioned were hesitant to step forward and report issues out of fear of retaliation.
Schupp, who is also a Missouri Veterans commissioner, says if the state legislature would not have passed Senate bill 43 last year, the facility’s employees would have been shielded from retaliation.
St. Louis employment attorney Jonathon Burns hopes the committee will vote soon to reestablish the proposed safeguards.
“They’re put in a horrible bind. Do I come forward and report the illegal conduct and risk my job? Or, do I keep quiet so that I can keep my job?Employees should not be forced into making that decision between doing the right thing and keeping their job,” says Burns. “Providing and restoring protections for public whistleblowers is something that creates a powerful deterrent against illegal conduct from happening in the first place.”
During a hearing last week, no one spoke in opposition to Schupp’s bill.
Other measures proposed this year go even further than Schupp’s by reversing Senate bill 43 in its entirety.