June 22, 2018
A Refreshing Change: Congress Makes Permanent Whistleblower Laws for Civil Servants
Statement of Shanna Devine, Worker Health and Safety Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division
Note: Congress unanimously has passed two good government whistleblower bills for federal employees. The All Circuit Review Act (H.R. 2229) makes permanent a pilot program that allows federal whistleblowers to appeal cases from the Merit Systems Protection Board in any circuit court of appeals with jurisdiction. Prior to the pilot program, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals was the sole circuit court of jurisdiction, and it has maintained a negative track record of handling whistleblower claims. The Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act (S.1869) makes permanent and strengthens the role of whistleblower protection coordinators in inspectors general offices. Both measures sunset in 2017, and the Make It Safe Coalition sent a letter urging Congress to act quickly in preserving these rights.
It is a refreshing change that in this instance, Congress has risen above partisanship by taking positive action to protect our most vulnerable government employees: whistleblowers. Its unanimous decision to make permanent two successful pilot programs of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act will allow our nation’s federal whistleblower law to be fully implemented.
Passage of the All Circuit Review Act, led by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), provides federal whistleblowers with a greater opportunity for justice by permanently ending the Federal Circuit’s monopoly on appeals. Congress must go further, though, and provide them with access to a jury to challenge retaliation, as reflected in modern private sector whistleblower laws.
The Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act, spearheaded by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), will empower whistleblower coordinators throughout the government to better guide our modern day heroes as they risk retaliation to defend democracy.
These developments reflect leadership of the congressional Whistleblower Protection Caucuses, and Congress’ longstanding bipartisan mandate to protect the brave employees who disclose government wrongdoing. President Donald Trump should sign these measures without delay.