May 3, 2021

Government Accountability Project Applauds Introduction of Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act

WASHINGTON—Today, Government Accountability Project released research demonstrating that federal employees have almost no chance of defending themselves against retaliation despite the Whistleblower Protection Act. Currently, Administrative Judges (AJ) at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board control a federal whistleblower’s only opportunity for a due process hearing. However, a review of 51 AJ decisions from January 1–April 30 revealed a 50-1 track record against whistleblowers.

Government Accountability Project released this research as part of testimony supporting today’s introduction of the bi-partisan the Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act by House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). The cornerstone for the bill is providing access to court and jury trials to seek justice, indispensable since the Merit Systems Protection Board administrative remedy has been paralyzed since January 2017 and faces a more than a 3,500 case backlog that will take years to overcome after it becomes functional again.

Government Accountability Project Legal Director Tom Devine said,

“This track record is inexcusable. Despite best practice rights on paper, federal employees who blow the whistle have the nation’s weakest results in practice. That is because they are the only major sector of the labor force whose whistleblowers cannot seek justice from the citizens whom they purport to defend when they risk their careers. With unprecedented federal spending to meet unprecedented challenges from the pandemic, public health, and climate change, America needs whistleblowers more than ever before to keep the federal government honest. This bill gives them a fair chance to defend themselves when they defend the public.”

The legislation is a comprehensive makeover of due process enforcement for statutory rights Congress unanimously has enacted four times, but have been a mirage in practice. The WPIA:

  • protects whistleblowers from retaliatory investigations,
  • provides a timely opportunity to obtain temporary relief,
  • strengthens channels to communicate with Congress,
  • details standards for protection of whistleblowers’ confidentiality,
  • restores 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.
  • closes loopholes that deny WPA coverage for non-career Senior Executive Service and Public Health Service employees,
  • closes loopholes that mean whistleblowers still are not made whole and lose when they “win’ their cases,
  • expands attorney fees to cover court representation, and
  • creates due process rights to challenge violations of the WPA’s anti-gag provisions.

Devine concluded,

“The Whistleblower Protection Act has been in a coma. This bill not only would revive it, but give federal workers global best practice whistleblower rights against workplace harassment when America needs whistleblowers the most.”

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.