Cayman’s first overarching legislation protecting those who report wrongdoing in the workplace will apply to all legal entities both in the public and private sector.
To reinforce this point, the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly has proposed a clarifying amendment to the Whistleblower Protection Law that took effect earlier this year.
It reads: “For the avoidance of doubt, this law applies to all employees and employers in the islands, including employees and employers or statutory authorities, government companies and private places of employment.”
The provisions of the current Whistleblower Protection Law (2015) took effect on Feb. 1 – about two and a half years after lawmakers passed the original bill, consolidating earlier legislation that sought to offer similar protection and was largely viewed as ineffective.
The job of receiving and reviewing whistleblower reports falls to the Ombudsman’s Office. The whistleblower reports are handled separately from civilian complaints made against police officers, which the Ombudsman’s Office also receives.
Anyone working in the Cayman Islands, whether in government or the private sector, can make a report or disclosure of suspected wrongdoing to the Ombudsman’s Office or to a practicing attorney. The Whistleblower Law requires all such complaints be kept in strictest confidence.
The Ombudsman’s Office has the powers of a court in investigating reports of wrongdoing and monitoring compliance with the law. If evidence of wrongdoing is found, the ombudsman can either refer the matter to the person responsible for internal discipline [in administrative cases], refer to the commissioner of police [if criminal wrongdoing has occurred] or to the governor [if the wrongdoing was committed by a high-ranking government official].
The legislation seeks to prevent public and private sector employees from making frivolous complaints or reports that are designed to embarrass their employers. Reports of wrongdoing will not qualify for protection against retaliation unless they are made “in the public interest,” according to the legislation. In addition, if it would normally be an offense to disclose information or if the information disclosed is considered legally privileged, the person disclosing it would not be protected.