FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 29, 2021
Government Accountability Project Applauds Landmark Whistleblower Legislation
WASHINGTON— Government Accountability Project today praised the House Committee on Oversight and Reform for approving landmark legislation to modernize the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of 1989. The last time Congress updated our national whistleblowing law was through the Whistleblowing Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, which passed after a thirteen-year campaign, but the most significant issues were set aside for study and its enforcement has become dysfunctional with over a 3,200 case backlog as the only available due process forum under current law, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
H.R. 2988, the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act (WPIA), addresses those dormant issues and upgrades the free speech rights of federal workers for parity with corporate employees who blow the whistle. H.R. 1224, the Merit Systems Protection Board Empowerment Act, reauthorizes the MSPB and requires training of traditionally hostile Administrative Judges on whistleblower rights. The WPIA had bipartisan sponsorship with Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) joining Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Gerald Connolly (D-VA). Both bills passed through the committee and now await a vote on the House floor.
The composite legislation establishes equal anti-retaliation rights in the Whistleblower Protection Act by:
- providing access to court and jury trials to seek justice, a due process right already available to nearly all other whistleblowers in the U.S. labor force, and indispensable since the MSPB administrative remedy has been paralyzed since January 2017 and faces a 3,200 plus case backlog that will take years to overcome after it becomes functional again.
- protecting whistleblowers from retaliatory investigations, which can frighten them into silence for years or lead to criminal referral, a protection already available to the rest of the U.S. labor force, including soldiers.
- providing a realistic chance to obtain temporary relief, which is essential to shrink unnecessary conflict, and for whistleblowers to remain functional long enough to win a decision in proceedings that frequently take 2-5 years to complete, and sometimes over a decade.
- strengthening channels to communicate with Congress, necessary to overcome the steadily increasing Executive branch barriers that threaten constitutional checks and balances.
- detailing standards for protection of whistleblowers’ confidentiality, necessary because current vague protections have proven unreliable.
- restoring accountability for Offices of Inspector General (OIGs), necessary because a loophole has rendered unenforceable the Office of Special Counsel’s orders to investigate abuses by OIGs.
- closing loopholes that deny WPA coverage for non-career Senior Executive Service and Public Health Service employees, necessary because the former are the most significant whistleblowers for Executive branch abuses and the latter because they are the whistleblowers for accountability in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- closing loopholes that mean whistleblowers still are not made whole and lose when they “win’ their cases, such as lost promotions during periods of illegal termination.
- expanding attorney fees to cover court representation, necessary to reinforce the right to counsel when it is needed most.
- creating due process rights to challenge violations of the WPA’s anti-gag provisions, necessary because that tactic has intensified sharply and prevents disclosures, even more threatening to the merit system than retaliation after making disclosures.
- mandatory certification of Whistleblower Protection Act training for MSPB Administrative Judges, necessary because this training has made a significant difference in other nations, and because they have issued significantly more hostile interpretations of the act since 2017 in the absence of administrative appellate review.
Government Accountability Project’s Legal Director Tom Devine highlighted the WPIA’s significance:
“The United States has never needed whistleblowers more than now, with trillions of dollars in new government spending and trillions more on the way. Every study has confirmed that whistleblowers are the best resource that exists against fraud, waste, and abuse. Americans from all perspectives need the truth so that trillions of dollars in new spending goes to serve the taxpayers, rather than special interests and political cronies. There is no excuse for stronger whistleblower rights and greater accountability in the private sector, compared to government bureaucracies.”
Government Accountability Project coordinates the non-partisan, trans-ideological Make It Safe Coalition (MISC). Other leading MISC groups supporting the reforms include the American Civil Liberties Union, National Security Counselors, National Taxpayers Union, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, and Whistleblowers of America.
Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Phone: (202) 926-3304
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.