When an employee turns in its employer for questionable or illegal practices, the employee is generally protected by whistleblower laws, which are in place to keep the employee from suffering retaliation from the employer or other agencies. However, contractors are not automatically guaranteed the same whistleblower protections. Because of this, contractors can be terminated, shunned and blacklisted, finding themselves not able to work in their industry -- all because they followed their consciences and knew they were entitled to reasonable employee rights.
Snowden is an example of where contractors can fall through the cracks. Whistleblower advocates have pointed out that had contractors been given the same protections as regular employees, the current situation could have been avoided because even the federal government would have had to abide by the protection rules.
President Obama stated that going outside the boundaries like Snowden did was unnecessary because protections were already in place. Although this is true in certain cases, and has been as far back as 1982, government contractors as well as contractors in other sensitive industries are not protected from retaliation or prosecution. The executive order which the president recently signed helps, but it needs to be shored up more so those who want to follow their consciences can do so without putting their careers and even their lives at risk.
Anyone who is facing such a situation should seek the advice of a legal professional. These experts can help a person navigate the process so he or she can keep a clear conscience and avoid persecution as much as possible.
Government Executive, "Intel Contractors' Whistleblower Rights Are a Work in Progress" Charles S. Clark, Aug. 20, 2013