Reprisal for blowing the whistle in Tasmania
A significant barrier to blowing the whistle (making a disclosure) is fear of reprisal.
To address this, the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2002 provides protection against ‘detrimental action’ to people who have made, or intend to make, a protected disclosure.
Detrimental action includes:
- action causing injury, loss or damage;
- intimidation or harassment;
- discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to a person's employment, career, profession, trade or business, including the taking of disciplinary action; and
- threats of detrimental action.
What can you do if you have experienced a reprisal?
If a whistleblower believes someone has taken reprisal action against them for blowing the whistle, they can make a further disclosure about this. Detrimental action is considered a type of improper conduct and the process for making and assessing a disclosure is the same.
Further information about how to make a disclosure can be found in a public body’s Public Interest Disclosure procedures (usually on that body’s website).
You can also refer to the Ombudsman’s factsheet, ‘Blowing the whistle in Tasmania’ (pdf, 284.1 KB)
Consequences of reprisal
The Act makes it an offence to take reprisal action. A person can be fined up to 240 penalty units and/or imprisoned for up to two years for taking detrimental action against a person in reprisal for a protected disclosure.
Civil remedies also exist. A whistleblower can:
- seek damages in court;
- seek an order that the person who took the detrimental action remedy that action; and
- seek an injunction to stop the detrimental action.
Can disciplinary action ever be taken against a whistleblower?
Yes, as not all disciplinary action will necessarily be reprisal action. Agencies, however, should consider seeking advice before commencing any disciplinary process to ensure they are not breaching any protections.