President Barack Obama enacted legislation last week that gives protection to federal employees who expose fraudulent operations, wastefulness, and abuse in federal government operations. This new law has been the end result of a thirteen-year push by advocates of whistleblower rights, who sought to eliminate loopholes created by various court rulings which stripped protections for federal whistleblowers. One of the loopholes eliminated by the law said that whistleblowers were only protected by the law when they were the first to report misconduct.
The new law expands the rights of whistleblowers and brings ease and clarity to certain protections, making the process of punishing supervisors who attempt to retaliate against government employees easier. It also allows whistleblowers to challenge the consequences of government policy decisions which was never allowed before. Additionally, the law will clarify that whistleblowers have the right to communicate with Congress, a question that was formerly unresolved.
The law also gives specific protection to some employees, like government scientists and researchers who are the victims of censorship restrictions. The employees of the Transportation Security Administration would also be protected under this law as they were not previously.
In order to reduce illegal supervisor retaliation, this law makes the discipline of those responsible less difficult by altering the burden of proof required when taking action against those who oppress whistleblowers.
The Office of Special Counsel, created to protect federal employees, no longer is liable for the legal fees of federal government managers if the office does not prevail in a case brought against them. Officials from the office say they are ready to implement these reforms, claiming that no employee should suffer retaliation for speaking out against misconduct. The law also removes the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction to review decisions in these whistleblowing cases.
Supporters of the law maintained that the court regularly removed protections and ruled against whistleblowers 226 times in 229 cases between October 1994 and May 2012.
According to the legal director of the Government Accountability Project, an organization which represents whistleblowers, the law took years to pass because government managers tried to repeatedly block the bill through a secret vote. Once the block was removed, the vote sailed through with barely any complications.
For over 50 years, Altman & Altman has successfully represented workers involved in whistleblower and worker’s compensation claims in the Greater Boston Area and throughout Massachusetts. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are available around the clock to answer your questions or to provide you a free case consultation. To speak to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, please contact us at (617) 206-1928.
Whistle-Blower Bill for U.S. Workers Signed by Obama Huffington Post, December 3, 2012