The new Congress gives whistleblower advocates an opportunity to make a new start on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (“WPEA”). The National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) today calls on legislators and advocates to get it right this time.  Legal protections for federal employees should be enhanced without any provisions that would take away presently existing rights.  If any poison pills are included in new legislation, federal employees will continue to suffer when they raise concerns about waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government.

The obituaries over the defeat of the WPEA in the last Congress (S. 372), have taken on an air of nostalgia over how the forces of “good” were defeated by one lone anonymous Senate “hold,” that somehow caused a major landmark whistleblower rights bill for federal employees to be defeated. It is a great political story — if only it was half-true.  In reality, the final, compromised version of S. 372 was the worst and weakest whistleblower protection law approved by the Senate or the House over the past 30 years.  It was fatally flawed and divisive legislation.

A Roll Back of Important Rights

On May 14, 2009 over 290 public interest organizations, including all of the members of the Make if Safe Coalition, wrote an open letter to President Obama and Congress calling for the enactment of nine significant reforms in the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.  Unfortunately, S. 372 failed to include seven of these nine requirements.  Worse, it contained two major cutbacks in current rights.

The May 14th letter stated:

It is crucial that Congress restore and modernize the Whistleblower Protection Act by passing all of the following reforms:

Continue Reading Whistleblower Protection for Federal Employee — Let’s Get it Right

We have received confirmation from two sources that a Senator has placed an anonymous hold on S. 372, the Senate’s flawed version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). This hold effectively kills the bill as the Senate adjourned tonight until the next Senate is seated. Earlier this evening, the House passed a modified version

Bunny Greenhouse testifies

When the Iraq was was about to begin, Bunny Greenhouse alone challenged the legality of awarding no-bid, no-compete, cost plus contract to Haliburton. The Army swiftly retaliated and she lost her career and position as the Army Corps of Engineers top procurement executive. Today Bunny spoke out against S.732, the Senate’s version of a Whistleblower

Dr. David L. Lewis

My client, Dr. David L. Lewis, is issuing an open letter today urging the House of Representatives to correct the “the grievous and manifold shortcomings in S. 372 before voting on it.” He also urges his fellow citizens to join him in taking action to share his concerns with their representatives.

Dr. Lewis was a top microbiologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He raised the standards for dental hygiene worldwide when he showed how previous practices were inadequate to protect dental patients from the transmission of HIV.  He showed how EPA’s rules for land application of sewage sludge did not have the scientific support needed to protect us from airborne diseases. That is when “industry representatives and EPA managers went ballistic.” His retaliation case is still pending.

He is today concerned that:

  • S. 372 ― for the first time ever ― would deny protection to federal employees if a judge finds that violations of law exposed by whistleblowers were “minor,” “inadvertent,” or committed when the violator was engaged in a “conscientious carrying out of official duties.” Every federal manager faced with a whistleblower retaliation claim will be hiding under this gaping loophole.
  • S. 372 would deny protection for whistleblowers who challenge an act of discretionary authority, or any retaliation against other whistleblowers. These exclusions would render whistleblowers even more powerless to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and violations of law within the federal government.
  • S. 372 would allow judges on the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) to dismiss whistleblower cases without any hearing. Due to all of the loopholes already at the disposal of employers who retaliate, federal employees prevail in less than 2% of the cases that proceed to a hearing. The current system needs to provide more fairness to whistleblowers ─ not to make it even more burdensome to prevail.

He urges everyone to Take Action by contacting their representatives. The full text of his letter follows in the continuation of this entry.Continue Reading Dr. David Lewis says “Fix S. 372”

Julia Davis is an award winning screenwriter and published photographer. She is Vice President of Fleur De Lis Film Studios, and the LA Homeland Security Examiner for Examiner.com. In her column today, she decries the flaws in S. 372, the Senate’s version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA).  She objects to its creation of a summary judgment procedure at the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). "Unless the bill is amended, Administrative Judges with the MSPB will now be able to dismiss whistleblower claims without a hearing, based solely on affidavits filed by the agencies." She notes that whistleblowers will have to survive this expensive process to benefit from the right to request a jury trial in district court. With MSPB’s track record of ruling for employees 1.7% of the time, S. 372 offers little hope for whistleblowers. Davis says:

The same MSPB judges who rule overwhelmingly in favor of the agencies will be empowered to be the gatekeeper for federal court. Much as an elusive oasis in the desert, the illusion of access to federal court is just that – an illusion.

Davis also faults S. 372 for failing to provide substantive reform of the MSPB and the Office of Special Counsel.  Her production company has released a letter to Congressional leaders urging correction of S. 372. She invites readers to take action to correct S. 372’s flaws.Continue Reading Julia Davis says “NO” to S. 372 flaws