Whistleblower protection legislation heads to White House
Just one step remains for a bill that provides strengthened whistleblower protections for more federal employees who expose fraud, waste or abuse in the government.
The Senate approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 743) by unanimous consent Nov. 13 in a pro forma session; the bill now awaits the approval of President Obama, who is expectd to sign it.
The bill enhances protections for whistleblowers by expanding what disclosures are covered, ensures a process for review, establishes administrative authority to oversee the protections and extends the first protections to Transportation Security Administration employees.
Whistleblowers no longer need "undeniable, uncontestable, or incontrovertible proof" before they are eligible for protection. The legislation also establishes the position of agency Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman "to educate agency employees about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures."
It also quashes a practice of the Merit Systems Protection Board that allowed it to make rulings in retaliation claim cases without hearing whistleblowers' evidence. The MSPB must also report outcomes of all cases, from administrative judge hearings through final appeals, in its annual reports.
Members of the intelligence community, not covered by this legislation--language that would have set up protections for intelligence officials was stripped as part of a compromise to secure House passage in October--were granted some protections under an Oct. 10 presidential policy directive.
The bill's protections do not go as far as they could, such as establishing the right to a jury trial to enforce protections. The bill also does not extend free speech rights to national security workers even when making disclosures within agency channels.
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