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Will the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act Get Another Chance?

published April 19, 2011

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The Democrat has sponsored whistleblower legislation every year since 2000. The bill almost passed last December, save for an anonymous senator who voted 'nay' on the final day of the 111th Congress.

According to the April 8th article, ''Whistleblower protections get another chance in Senate'', Akaka was quoted as saying: ''This bill strengthens the Whistleblower Protection Act and restores congressional intent that whistleblowers be protected from retaliation. This protection is crucial to efforts to improve government management, cut the deficit, protect public health and safety, and to secure the nation.''

The biggest change the bill proposes is suspending the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals exclusive jurisdiction over federal employee whistleblower cases for the next five years. Historically, this court has not ruled in favor of federal whistleblowers. By suspending the court's jurisdiction, alleged victims of whistleblower retaliation would be free to seek a jury trial anywhere in the country.

Currently, according to the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act, only ''the first'' person who 'blows the whistle' is protected. The proposed bill would end this.

Additionally, the bill would offer whistleblower protection for over 40,000 Transportation Security Administration baggage screeners as well as federal scientists - for the first time. This proposed change will likely stir controversy. These groups would have access to an administrative appeals process, which would give them what's described as a legal, safe way to communicate wrongdoing.

Angela Canterbury, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight was quoted as saying: ''Quick passage of this bill would signal that Congress is serious about tackling waste and saving taxpayer dollars. Federal workers are on the front lines for witnessing waste, fraud and abuse. They need safe, legal channels for making legitimate disclosures and adequate protections for looking out for the rest of us.''

Among other changes, the bill would include language clarifying that disclosures of waste, mismanagement, fraud, abuse or other illegal activity would be protected, but not disagreements over policy decisions. The Office of Special Counsel would also be given authority to file friend-of-the-court briefs, in support of employees rulings made by the Merit Systems Protection Board.