Some government employees are finally allowed to exercise the right to voice their concerns in a consequence free environment now that President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). This act will help resolve the issue of the FDA and USDA intimidating their employees to keep their concerns quiet. Since employees of these government agencies feared retaliation for speaking out against their employer, many have sat idly by while they believed public health was at risk. The consequence of demotion, firing, or relocation was enough for employees to keep their opposition to themselves. However, the WPEA has now been signed and FDA and USDA employees are officially free to voice their concerns to supervisors without the possibility of unfair retaliation. This is a step in the right direction for honest and healthy working conditions in an industry that has a big impact on the food we eat.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act will help hold the FDA and USDA accountable for their actions. In the past, these organizations have dodged accountability and benefited from their intimidating demeanor towards employees. For example, former USDA public health veterinarian Dr. Dean Wyatt was forced to transfer across the country after he voiced his opposition to the inhumane way two slaughterhouses were conducting business. Since there was no law protecting Wyatt from the consequences of addressing this concern, the USDA covered their backs by removing him from the issue. Many employees have felt that they had no choice but to keep quiet about potential health risks. In the past employees had to seek out ways to anonymously voice their opposition to improper inspection processes. In one example, several employees felt that 1/3 of one second was not enough time to adequately examine poultry as it passed by on the conveyor belt. But since the employees feared they might lose their jobs, they chose not to bring attention to the unrealistic conveyor belt speeds. The employees’ fear of retaliation has allowed our food to be processed and examined in risky conditions for health and safety.
The food industry is always trying to find ways to optimize revenue and product output. But in the process they have jeopardized the quality of our food by cutting corners. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is a step in the right direction for both workers’ rights and food safety. Now that employees are free to voice their concerns about the FDA and USDA we can anticipate a safer, healthier, and morally stronger food production and examination process.