Reich Speech Praises Whistleblowers
As the keynote speaker for the event, which was entitled “Whistleblowers: Ethics, Management and the Law,” the former U.S. secretary of labor capped an afternoon of panel discussions of corporate whistleblowing in both the public and private sectors.
Reich said individuals in America are increasingly powerless in the face of large corporations, which makes it difficult for institutions to protect whistleblowers.
Reich cited the ongoing scandal in the Catholic Church as an example of how institutions clamp down on dissent and fail to regulate themselves.
“People have not been the whistleblowers, have not said what needed to be said and have not stopped what needed to be stopped,” he said.
Reich also discussed the 1987 case of his wife, Clare Dalton, who claimed she was denied tenure at Harvard Law School because of gender discrimination.
Reich said the support of the Harvard community was critical in Dalton’s battle with Harvard, which eventually paid Dalton $260,000 in a mediated settlement.
But though he said community support is important, Reich said whistleblowing ultimately comes down to an act of individual courage.
“At the end of the day a decision has to be made,” he said. “You must stand up. You must be counted.”
On the other hand, Reich said the decision to blow the whistle on an employer should not be taken lightly, and litigation should always be regarded as a last resort after other avenues are exhausted.
The conference, which took place in the Science Center, was co-sponsored by Harvard and MIT.
A dozen student groups from both schools helped to organize the conference, including the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and the Harvard College Democrats.
Chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisc.), Associate Professor of Business Administration Constance E. Bagley and Professor of Law Christine M. Jolls also spoke at the event.