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President Obama signs whistleblower protection bill into law

a photo of Rick ClaypoolAll-too-often, federal workers who call out corruption in their workplace have been marginalized, penalized and even fired after drawing attention to corporate cronyism and other shady practices.

But, thanks in no small part to tens of thousands of Public Citizen supporters who contacted their members of Congress and urged them to pass the bill, the thirteen-year battle for increased whistleblower protections has finally paid off.

The bill unanimously passed both houses of Congress, and President Obama on Tuesday signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 743) into law.

The law will provide federal civil employees with important protections, including extending the current law’s protection beyond the first person who discloses fraud and/or abuse and overriding the U.S. Supreme Court Garcetti v. Ceballos decision, which held that public employees have no First Amendment protection for speech communicated as part of their job duties.

“Reforms such as these create a vehicle for workers to safely call out potential hazards in the workplace without retaliation from their employers,” said Keith Wrightson, Public Citizen’s Worker Safety and Health Advocate. “By giving federal workers more opportunity and resources to identify hazardous workplace situations, the government will become more efficient.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers — including strange bedfellows like lead sponsors Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) — and a diverse coalition of organizations including Public Citizen, Project On Government Oversight, Government Accountability Project, American Federation of Government Employees and other members of the Make it SAFE Coalition enabled this hard-fought, commonsense reform to finally pass.

To get involved with Public Citizen’s current campaigns, visit citizen.org/action.

Rick Claypool is Online Director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRick.