Thursday, December 30, 2010

In the Public Interest

The Public Interest

That the exposure is in the public interest is a key aspect of whistleblowing.

An action that is illegal or that brings harm or has the potential to bring harm, directly or indirectly, to the public at large, now or in the future, is an action against the public interest.

There are many employees, both public sector and private, who suffer personal difficulties in the work place. They may have been bullied by their supervisor, they may believe that others were promoted unfairly ahead of them, or otherwise feel aggrieved with the organisation or supervisor that that they work for. They may complain of these personal problems, but unless the problem is illegal or unethical and sufficiently widespread to be against the public interest, these complainants are not whistleblowing. A company or public agency will have, or should have, systems for identifying and dealing with these personal grievances. Public interest issues are wider. The definition of public interest used here is

Typically, public interest issues are actions that endanger public health, safety, or the environment, or that raise anti-discrimination concerns or in other ways harm the general public. A regulatory agency may still pursue a single personal complaint or investigate an employee’s conduct, to test an important issue, or if it believes that an investigation may highlight an issue of wider public concern, but generally, a public interest issue is an activity of the organisation that harms a group of people. At times it will be difficult to disentangle the personal complaint from the public interest issue.


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