Dr. Duane Bonds has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court this week. Dr. Bonds was our nation’s top researcher on sickle cell disease until she blew the whistle on the unauthorized cloning of participants’ cells. In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that she had a right to a jury trial on her claims under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). Bonds v. Leavitt, 629 F.3d 369, 384 (4th Cir. 2011). However, it let stand the dismissal of her claims of retaliation against her in violation of Title VII. Title VII is part of the Civil Rights Act. The Fourth Circuit said that Title VII protects federal employees only to the extent that it protects employees in the private sector, and that protection applies only to concerns about discrimination in employment. The Fourth Circuit held that Title VII does not protect federal employees when they raise concerns about discrimination against minority members of the public.
My colleague Michael D. Kohn and I filed Dr. Bonds’ petition for a writ of certiorari this week asking the Supreme Court to accept this case so it can say that federal employees are protected when they protest discrimination against the minorities the government is supposed to serve. The key provision of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-16 provides that all personnel actions taken against a federal employee “shall be made free from any discrimination based on
race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” Recently, the federal appeals court in the District of Columbia said that this provision requires the federal government to set a higher standard than it imposes on the private sector. Ford v. Mabus, 629 F.3d 198 (D.C. Cir. 2010). Dr. Bonds’ petition provides the Supreme Court a chance to make this holding apply throughout the country. More information about Dr. Bonds’ case is available in this prior blog post.