Just Crickets in Connecticut as Court Takes Narrow View of Whistleblower Protections

Since early October, countless columnists, lawyers and elected officials – many in Connecticut – have voiced support for Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, who came forward with a variety of damning information about the conduct of the social media platform.

But a state employee whistleblower case right here in Connecticut that I believe deserves similar attention has curiously drawn little reaction from those so vocal on the Facebook matter.

As far as we are aware, Haugen has not alleged witnessing any crime or any conspiracy to commit a crime as a private employee of the company, but she has nevertheless sought protection from retaliation under federal whistleblower statutes to protect her right to provide information to regulators which might spur action or shape the decision-making of federal agencies.

Such is the (likely deserved) reputation of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg that simply speaking out against the immorality of the company is enough to trigger important, but in some ways extraordinary, protections.

But compare this case to the decision last Tuesday by a Superior Court in Connecticut to throw out claims by Av Harris, who alleges that as a public employee he was fired for speaking out against what he believed were plans by a member of the Lamont administration to illegally intervene in a police investigation.

Lawyers for the Office of the Governor, however, argued in court that state whistleblower protections are not triggered if a crime never actually takes place.

In his decision, Judge Stuart D. Rosen agreed, and in the process set a troubling precedent that whistleblowers merely attempting to prevent crimes can expect no protection from retaliation under state law.

Perhaps this is a correct reading of the law – and we would not fault Rosen for that – but it simply amazes me that much of the press in Connecticut has not even bothered to report on the arguments or ruling, and demonstrate little interest in the broader implications of the case. 

Why exactly is the case of Harris, a public employee, so much less important than Haugen, who worked for a private company? And why exactly should we care more about the immoral acts of a private company, than an alleged conspiracy to commit illegal acts by the government?

I know, I know…  Av Harris might have been a government spokesman, but he’s not exactly clickbait. But while that might explain the behavior of the press, it hardly excuses virtually every elected official, lawyer, law professor and advocacy group who have declined our request to comment – before and after the decision – so far all we’ve heard are crickets.

In fact, we haven’t been able to find anyone willing to go on the record even in the most general terms to say that perhaps the ruling was a poor one, or the law simply needs fixing.

So far, just crickets.

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