Richard Renner, Legal Director for the National Whistleblower Center, spoke today with Local #1812 of the American Federation of Government Employees about the need for improved whistleblower protections for government employees. “The plight of federal employee whistleblowers is that they have fewer protections than employees in the private sector. The present system is broken, and we need to work together to fix it,” Renner explained.
Under current law, federal employees are denied the right to bring their claims of government misconduct in front of a jury. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 forces federal employee whistleblowers to have their cases heard before an administrative agency such as the Merit System Protection Board, where federal employees’ claims are not fairly adjudicated. The National Whistleblower Center supports the HR 1507 version of the the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). In 2007, House of Representatives passed the WPEA with a large bipartisan majority. It has still not passed the Senate. H.R. 1507 would give every federal employee the right to eventually have their claims heard by a jury.
This blog post was written by intern Kevin Heade. Photo by intern Phil Shank.
The Senate's current version of the WPEA, S. 372, would be a setback for federal employees because of certain “poison pill” provisions. The poison pills in S. 372 include:
Repealing the FBI whistleblower protection law.
Agency heads of security agencies would be empowered to fire employees with no administrative or judicial review.
National security whistleblowers are denied independent review over retaliation cases.
A procedural roadblock that could deny any federal employee the opportunity to have a hearing or obtaining a jury trial.
“Our adversaries like to have power and not explain how they use it, while we want to see how the power is used and want to see them held accountable,” Renner told union members, explaining the Senate’s reluctance to pass the House version of the WPEA, HR 1507. “The National Whistleblower Center is a natural ally with unions in our common efforts to protect the rights of employees,” Renner said, emphasizing the utility of The National Whistleblower Center Action Alerts tool. NWC Action Alerts help constituents to impress upon their Congressional representatives the importance of strengthening whistleblower rights for federal employees while not allowing a change in the law to take a step back in worker protections. “The number of members receiving NWC Action Alerts has grown from around 2,000 to over 18,000 in the last four years,” Renner said, “and that number will continue to grow as we partner with unions such as the AFGE to demand that federal employees are guaranteed the rights they deserve.”
Local 1812 members were eager to get sign-up cards for NWC's Action Alert network. As employees of the Voice of America, they share from experience the natural consequences of speaking truth to power. You can join the NWC Action Alerts here.