Congress must enact real whistleblower protections

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today that it has entered into agreements with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to permit TSA employees to appeal whistleblower complaints to the MSPB.

These so-called “enhanced” whistleblower protections for TSA employees are completely illusory and ineffective.  These new TSA procedures provide no more than the inadequate and completely dysfunctional whistleblower appeal rights currently afforded to other federal government workers. 

The OSC’s track record of protecting whistleblowers over the last several years is abysmal.  OSC rules for whistleblowers less than 3% of the time and the head of OSC is under criminal investigation for obstruction of justice. MSPB rarely grants whistleblowers a fair hearing.  Over the last several years MSPB has ruled in favor of whistleblowers less than 5% of the time, and that number is rapidly declining.

In March of 2007, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 985, “The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007,” by a bi-partisan vote of 331 to 94.  However, H.R. 985 has not been enacted into law and the most important “enhanced” whistleblower protections contained in that bill, such as the right to recover compensatory damages, de novo review and jury trials in federal court, have been stalled in the Senate.

Yesterday, both the House and Senate agreed to strong whistleblower protections in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  Notably, the Consumer Product Safety whistleblower protections extends to manufacturing employees some of the strongest whistleblower protections in the country, including access to jury trials in federal courts with strong remedies, including reinstatement, backpay, compensatory damages, and attorneys fees.

It is about time for Congress to enact the same strong whistleblower protections for all federal employees (including TSA screeners) that should soon be provided to manufacturing employees under the Consumer Safety Product whistleblower law.