President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act last week. The Senate, in a post-election session two weeks ago agreed to a House compromise and passed the legislation. The Act, in its entirety, takes effect December 27, 2012 but the addition of whistle-blower protections to TSA employees is effective immediately.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is intended to remedy loopholes created by court decisions and to expand the protections afforded whistle-blowers within the Federal Government. It adds protection to federal employees that currently are not covered, with the greatest number being Transportation Security Agency officers. The Office of Special Counsel has had the ability to seek disciplinary action against supervisors that retaliate against a whistle-blower.
The Act also regulates the language that can be used in non-disclosure agreements, preventing such agreements from being used as a tool to prevent reporting by a whistle-blower. It also extends protection to federal employees who disclose alleged censorship of research, analysis or technical information. An additional requirement is that the heads of federal agencies must advise their employees on lawful methods for disclosing classified material in the course of a whistle-blower’s complaint.
The loopholes closed by this law include adding whistle-blower protection for employees who are not the first to report an issue. Protection is extended regardless of the employee’s motive for making a disclosure, or if it is made when the employee is off duty. It is also extended without respect to the time that may have passed prior to a whistle-blower disclosure.
An employee that is the subject of a prohibited personnel action for being a whistle-blower has the scope of his action expanded to include “fees, costs, or damages reasonably incurred due to an agency investigation of the employee”. The Merit Systems Protection Board may order an offending agency to pay the whistle-blower his attorney fees, compensatory damages, interest and expert witness costs.
Charles Simmins brings thirty years of accounting and management experience to his coverage of the news. An upstate New Yorker, he is a free lance journalist, former volunteer firefighter and EMT, and is owned by a wife and four cats.