All communications between PEER staff or volunteers and the environmental public employees they serve are treated as strictly confidential. Any and all information provided to PEER by you as a public employee remains at all times strictly within your control. That means that PEER will not voluntarily release or disclose any information furnished by employees without the employee's explicit consent and approval.
Your confidentiality is protected:
The First Amendment — Freedom of Association
First, and most importantly, a government agency cannot (without court order) legally compel PEER to reveal confidential sources of information it discloses. In the precedent-setting case of the United States v. Garde , 673 F.Supp. 604 (D.D.C. 1987), the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that the government's attempts to subpoena or otherwise compel a whistleblower support organization to disclose the identity of its confidential sources infringe upon the First Amendment right to association of those sources. Recognizing the risk of great harm to those who disclose problems in their agencies, the Court held, organizations like PEER cannot be forced to disclose the identity of its sources unless the government can show a compelling interest that cannot be served by alternative means. Similarly, the identity of PEER sources is also protected when private entities, such as polluters or developers who may be implicated by a PEER disclosure, seek to obtain confidential identifying information about PEER sources from government investigatory agencies. See Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. EPA, 856 F.2d 309 (DC Cir. 1988).
The Attorney-Client Privilege
Second, unless we are explicitly advised to the contrary, PEER assumes that all public employees who contact us are seeking some form of legal assistance or advice. Thus, most communications with PEER lawyers, staff, or volunteers are treated as “attorney-client” privileged. The attorney-client privilege is held by the client and may only be waived by the client or breached by court order.
PEER's organizational policies forbid the disclosure of employee information or even the identities of public employees seeking PEER services.
Additional Legal Protections
In addition to confidentiality, in many situations employee disclosures to PEER are accorded legal protection under a variety of state and federal whistleblower statutes. That means that you may have a legal right to share information of environmental wrongdoing with PEER free from retaliation by your employing agency.