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More protection coming for Alberta whistleblowers

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 5/5/2017 8:03:00 AM

Whistleblowers in Alberta’s public sector will get a few extra layers of protection under a new Bill introduced on May 2, 2017 in the provincial Legislature.

Bill 11, the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Amendment Act, 2017, will plug gaps in the current legislation and provide for restitution for public sector employees who get treated badly for doing the right thing.

The amendment will extend the Act’s protection to staff of MLAs, Cabinet members and the Premier, as well as “prescribed service providers”. This latter category will be defined by regulation, but is intended to cover agencies under contract to the government.

Under the amended Act, protection will begin the moment an employee raises a complaint with his or her superior. This will close a gap in the current legislation, which protects workers only from the moment the complaint reaches the person designated within the organization to receive complaints.

The amendment will broaden the definition of “wrongdoing” that can be disclosed without repercussion. It will include the gross mismanagement of public service delivery and systemic workplace bullying or intimidation.

Employees who raise a warranted complaint and believe they’ve been treated unfairly as a consequence will be allowed to bring the issue to the Labour Relations Board. The Board will be able to order reinstatement or compensation in lieu of reinstatement, payment of lost wages, removal of negative comments from the employee’s employment record, and several other measures intended to mitigate the consequences of the reprisal.

Bill 11 is a response to the final report of the all-party Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee, released September 2016. The government says that regulations may follow that could further extend whistleblower protection.

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