In the works for more than a decade, a bill which protects employees who expose government wrongdoing from retaliation by supervisors has finally been passed by Congress.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) was unanimously passed by the Senate on Tuesday after being approved by the House of Representatives in September. The bill is now on its way to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.
“Millions of civil federal employees no longer need live in fear of retaliation for standing up to wrongdoing in the workplace,” said Public Citizen’s Keith Wrightson.
“The WPEA closes many loopholes and upgrades protections for federal workers who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality,” said Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the Project On Government Oversight.
- Extends the current law’s protection beyond the first person who discloses fraud and/or abuse;
- Overrides the U.S. Supreme Court Garcetti v. Ceballos decision, which held that public employees have no First Amendment protection for speech communicated as part of their job duties; and
- Allows economic damages for whistleblowers after an administrative hearing.
- Extends whistleblower rights to approximately 40,000 airport Transportation Security Administration officers.
Instrumental in the 13-year-long legislative campaign to get the WPEA passed was retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Carl Levin (D-Mich.), U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Todd Platts (R-Pa.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) were also backers of the bill.
The bill will be enforced by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which praised the Senate’s action.
Whistleblower advocates hailed congressional approval of the legislation.
Congress failed to include whistleblower protections for national security and intelligence employees in the bill, prompting President Obama to issue an Presidential Policy Directive prohibiting retaliation against them for exposing waste, fraud and abuse.