Friday, 30 November 2012

AFGE Lauds the Signing of the Federal Whistleblower Bill Into Law

American Federation of Government Employees

The American Federation of Government Employees applauds the bipartisan, collaborative work of members of Congress, a diverse coalition of worker advocates and good government groups, and the Obama Administration in signing the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, S. 743 into law.

AFGE was a pioneer in advancing protections for federal employee whistleblowers, and brought the first case under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) in 1979. The work of AFGE and a nationwide coalition of worker advocates, civil rights, taxpayer and good government groups has resulted in S. 743 being signed into law. This bill corrects narrow judicial interpretation and agency rules that made it virtually impossible for federal workers to prevail under the WPA. Passage of this bill was made possible by the bipartisan leadership of Reps. Chis Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.), House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Among the many improvements included in S. 743 are expansions to current laws that protect additional disclosures of wrongdoing, provide statutory whistleblower protections to more than 45,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), allow more federal courts to hear appeals of whistleblower cases, protect workers against retaliatory investigations when they disclose workplace wrongdoing, and creates the position of whistleblower ombudsman in agency Offices of Inspector General to educate federal workers and managers about whistleblower protections.

The law signed by President Obama replaces the process TSA negotiated with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit System Protection Board that could be cancelled unilaterally by the agency and provided no ability to appeal adverse decisions to federal court. Now TSOs have the same statutory right as other federal workers, including TSA management. In addition, the WPEA grants TSOs the statutory right to file discrimination claims with the OSC and provides protections to the TSO workforce when they face retaliation because they filed or assisted a fellow employee who filed an appeal, complaint or grievance granted by law, rule or regulation.

Federal workers should be encouraged and protected when they come forward to expose waste, fraud, abuse and wrongdoing in the federal workplace. Currently federal workers risk their careers when they blow the whistle to protect the health, safety or funding of the public because they have inadequate whistleblower protections and there is little accountability for those who retaliate against them. S. 743 adds protection against the chilling effect of retaliation.
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