Total Recall: The Need For CPSC Reform Now July 2008 Page 8 Section 5. New Whistleblower Protections Will Help Protect Consumers Too Whistleblower protections for employees are essential to ensure that unsafe products come to the attention of the CPSC as soon as possible. Such protections mean that employees can alert the CPSC about product defects before they harm the public, preventing deaths and injuries. We know that whistleblowers within the agency and in the private sector have been blocked from alerting the public to their safety concerns. Here are some examples: • When Robin Ingle, a hazards statistician at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, finished her report on the increasing dangers of All Terrain Vehicles, a political appointee at the agency tried to intimidate her into changing her conclusions. When that didn’t work, he sat on the report for three months. It wasn’t until after Ingle left the agency—and retained a lawyer to help her navigate the non-disclosure agreement that all departing staffers are required to sign—that she felt she could discuss her experience in public. The few private-sector whistleblowers who have tried to protect the public from unsafe products allege that they have been punished by their bosses, court records show. • In 1998, a product engineer for Kidde-Fenwel Inc. in Massachusetts alerted the CPSC to faulty home furnace ignition devices that his company continued to market, despite the fact that the device had caused at least one home fire. Over the next four years, the employee was harassed, threatened with termination, transferred to inferior assignments, and ultimately fired because of what the company claimed was “insufficient workload.” • In 2002, a product designer at U.S. Traffic Corp. in California blew the whistle on his company, contending that it manufactured lighting products that violated federal and state safety standards. The company fired him. Its reason? Excessive tardiness. • In 2005, Scott Behm, a quality control manager at Progress Plastic Products Inc. in Bellevue, Ohio, was concerned about the safety of a part for Evenflo’s “ExerSaucer”, a device in which a young child sits suspended, surrounded by toys. After investigation, Behm was worried that the pad rings that his company made for the ExerSaucer were too brittle, and could snap and injure a child. “I was afraid somebody could get hurt,” Behm said in his deposition. When he tried to alert his bosses to the problems with the pad rings, Behm said he was threatened with termination if he did not stop his investigation. A month later, Behm lost his job, reportedly as part of a layoff. • In 1995, an administrative staffer at James Monroe Wire & Cable Corp. blew the whistle on defective wire for use in fire alarms in homes, hotels and high-rises. The employee stated that he was asked to stop reporting product defects to a UL inspector, and promised a raise if he did so. When the employee refused, he was fired for insubordination.