FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 4, 2020
Make It Safe Coalition Praises New Legislation to Protect Whistleblowers
Government Accountability Project Joins Coalition in Supporting Composite Legislation to Strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012
WASHINGTON – Today, 10 organizations in The Make It Safe Coalition (MISC) Steering Committee praised House Committee on Oversight and Reform (COR) leadership for combined legislation to finish what Congress started in the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012. Since that unanimously approved mandate, whistleblowers steadily have proven themselves indispensable against abuses of power that betray the public trust. Unfortunately, some of the most significant issues were postponed for further study eight years ago, without follow-up to add necessary teeth to the legislation. U.S. pioneer free speech rights for whistleblowers have fallen far behind the pace for global best practices protecting whistleblowers.
COR Chair Carol Maloney introduced the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act. This follows COR Subcommittee on Government Operations Chair Gerry Connolly’s introduction last Thursday of the Whistleblower Protection Empowerment Act.
Government Accountability Project Legal Director Tom Devine commented,
“These bills finish what Congress started eight years ago when it enacted the landmark Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The legislation attacks the remaining loopholes that too often have turned stated rights into false advertising. It finally gives whistleblowers a chance to seek justice through a fair day in court before a jury, like nearly every other segment of the U.S. labor force. It also plugs the current law’s most glaring loophole by giving civil service whistleblowers the right to challenge retaliatory investigations when opened, like all other whistleblowers. While America pioneered free speech rights for whistleblowers, our laws are badly outdated. Chairmen Maloney and Connolly’s legislation would restore America as the global leader. All federal employees who want to be public servants owe them a debt of gratitude.”
The composite legislation would restore the rights of federal whistleblowers to global best practices 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 Merit Systems Protection Board administrative remedy has been paralyzed since January 2017 and faces a 2,500 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, even including soldiers.
- Providing a timely opportunity 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 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 (OIG’s), necessary because a loophole has rendered unenforceable the Office of Special Counsels orders to investigate abuses by OIG’s.
- 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.
- Requiring certification of Whistleblower Protection Act training for MSPB Administrative Judges, necessary because this training has made a significant difference in other nations, and because AJ’s have issued significantly more hostile interpretations of the Act since 2017 in the absence of administrative appellate review.
Groups sending the letter included the Government Accountability Project, American Civil Liberties Union, Liberty Coalition, National Security Counselors, National Taxpayers Union, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Taxpayer Protection Alliance and Whistleblowers of America.
Contact: Andrew Harman, Director of Communications
Phone: (202) 457-0034 x156
Government Accountability Project
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.