Senate Committee Approves Landmark Product Safety Whistleblower Protections

(Washington, D.C.) – The Government Accountability Project (GAP) applauds the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for advancing the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Reform Act of 2007. The legislation includes landmark “best practices” whistleblower protections for employees who disclose violations of product safety standards by retailers, manufacturers, or distributors of products in commerce. The legislation, S. 2045, sponsored by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), was approved unanimously Tuesday afternoon. An amendment by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), which significantly strengthened the whistleblower rights section, also gained Committee approval.

GAP also notes that objections expressed by CPSC Chairwoman Nancy Nord to the whistleblower provision are no longer relevant after a Committee substitute amendment addressed the specific concern. In a letter to the Committee, Nord objected to the whistleblower provision because it would require CPSC to take on “the dramatic and unprecedented mission of hearing and acting upon employee whistle-blower complaints.” The Committee responded by approving a change that requires whistleblowers to file complaints with the Department of Labor (DOL), which has a well-established adjudicative system for handling reprisal complaints.

“The Committee gave bi-partisan approval to extend Congress’ growing mandate for corporate whistleblower rights beyond transportation disasters or homeland and national security,” stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, referencing a similar measure that passed this Congress granting whistleblower protections for ground transportation employees. “Whistleblowers are the first line of defense against defective products that needlessly threaten America’s families every day in their routine home activities.”

Additionally, the Committee endorsed Sen. McCaskill’s amendment, which allows whistleblowers to remove their case to federal district court for a jury trial if a timely administrative ruling is not received.

The committee responded favorably to a letter sent by GAP and forty-two other whistleblower support, good government and consumer protection groups.

Joining GAP in signing onto the letter and supporting the bill were: Public Citizen, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, National Consumers League, Project On Government Oversight, National Whistleblower Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, Taxpayers Against Fraud, OMB Watch, Fund for Constitutional Government, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, American Library Association,, HALT, Inc. – An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform, Liberty Coalition, Federation of American Scientists, U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, Whistleblowers USA, No Fear Coalition, Federal Employees Against Discrimination, Integrity International, No FEAR Coalition, American Association of University Professors, AZ Conference, Coalition for Civil Rights and Democratic Liberties, Truckers Justice Center, Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Circumpolar Conservation Union, Patrick Henry Center, Information Trust,, National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc., Focus On Indiana, The 3.5.7 Commission, The New Grady Coalition, Georgians for Open Government, Ethics in Government Group (EGG), The Semmelweis Society International (SSI), Doctors for Open Government, Alliance for Patient Safety, Health Integrity Project, and The Student Health Integrity Project (SHIP).