Senate passes whistleblower protection bill
The Senate has passed enhanced protections for government employees and contractors who report cases of waste, fraud and abuse.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act was approved using the Senate's unanimous consent procedure late Friday. Whistleblower advocates have long pushed for legislation to strengthen the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act, which whistleblowers criticized as largely ineffective. The enhancement bill now moves to the House.
One significant section of the current legislation would allow jury trials, with certain limitations, for employees who take legal action against agencies for allegedly retaliating against workers who expose wrongdoing. This is a pilot provision, however, that would automatically expire in five years unless renewed.
"For the first time in history, the law will have structural reforms including normal access to appeals courts for whistleblowers and the right to a trial," said the Make It Safe Coalition, a group of organizations advocating the bill.
Under the 1989 law, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the only court permitted to hear appeals by whistleblowers in cases of retaliation against them.
"The Court has single-handedly gutted the WPA, leading to a 3-210 record against whistleblowers for decisions on the merits since October 1994," the coalition said.
Whistleblowers who prove retaliation either in court or through administrative channels would be eligible for compensation under the legislation.
Other provisions extend whistleblower protections to transportation security officers and intelligence community workers, allow government contractors to make classified whistleblowing reports to Congress and facilitate action by the Office of Special Counsel against those responsible for illegal retaliation against whistleblowers.
Whistleblower advocates were not able to persuade the Senate to include jury trials for CIA and other intelligence community whistleblowers who charge agencies with retaliation.
| December 11, 2010; 12:04 PM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments, Congress, Workplace Issues | Tags: Senate, whistleblower bill, whistleblower protections, whistleblowers
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