Evolution of the Modern Whistleblower

I had the great fortune to meet Elin Baklid-Kunz at a conference last week. Ms. Baklid-Kunz is the courageous whistleblower in the recent Halifax hospital settlement. She is perhaps a poster child for the modern whistleblower. After trying unsuccessfully to fix compliance issues in her workplace, she filed suit under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. Part of her lawsuit has been resolved through a settlement and part is set to be tried in the immediate future. The kicker is that she still works at the hospital as the director of physician services. She genuinely loves her job and tried in vain to stop them from breaking the law.

 . . .she still works at the hospital as the director of physician services. She genuinely loves her job and tried in vain to stop them from breaking the law.

While it is common for whistleblowers to be shunned and outcast by their former employer and co-workers, it is rare for the whistleblower to remain on the job after a settlement or on the eve of trial. In speaking with her I learned a bit more. Some of her co-workers accused her of jeopardizing their jobs and have treated her as poorly as expected. Many of her co-workers, however, have embraced her and thanked her for her courage.

A native of Norway, she started working for Halifax Health in 1994, and said she is evaluating her future at the hospital. She postulates, and I agree, that the disdain and hatred against whistleblowers is culturally dependent. She suspects she would be universally hailed a hero in her home country but her in America she is a traitor, a rat, an outcast. Only when we begin to embrace whistleblowers, particularly those who try in vain to fix compliance issues in advance of exposing them, rather than retaliating and attacking them, will we truly evolve as a society.