For Immediate Release
Crucial Senate Hearing Tomorrow for Federal Employee Whistleblower Rights
Senate Bill Differs from House Bill by not including key Jury Trial Rights; National Security Worker Protections
WASHINGTON - Tomorrow, Thursday June 11, there will be a crucial Senate hearing on S. 372, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009. The hearing will take place at 2:30pm in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 342. It is being held by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia.
Live coverage will be available Thursday on the Committee's Website, at the following link: http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Hearings.Detail&HearingID=f657db46-9461-43ba-99de-2ac25593c899
The legislation is aimed at vastly improving federal employee whistleblower rights - vital protections for effectively combating waste, fraud and abuse throughout the federal government. Unfortunately, the current proposed legislation, as written, does not match the corresponding House of Representatives' version of the bill (HR 1507), introduced in March. While both bills improve greatly upon the now-gutted Whistleblower Protection Act, the House version is clearly superior because it mandates jury trials for federal employee cases that now get stuck (for years) in the bureaucratic and administrative purgatory. The House bill also protects national security whistleblowers who report wrongdoing and corruption that they experience to authorized members of Congress, or designated officials within their agencies.
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, who is testifying tomorrow, stated "Congress has passed the WPA three times before, but the rights weren't worth the paper they were written on. The litmus test for change we can believe in is full access to court for whistleblowers to seek justice from a jury, as President Obama promised."
Devine's written testimony emphasizes the necessity for jury trials as a "prerequisite for employees to take seriously their rights on paper." He notes that since the millennium the Merit System Protection Board has a 53-3 track record against whistleblowers in decisions on the merits, and current Chairman Neil McPhie's record is 44-1 against whistleblowers. Devine's testimony includes a digest of every Board decision since 2000. It also debunks three objections to court access for whistleblowers that management made against every whistleblower law ever proposed or enacted that - 1) the new rights would lead to employees flooding the courts, 2) intimidated managers would be afraid to hold incompetents or troublemakers accountable, and 3) citizens in juries won't be able to understand the complex issues in cover-ups of government corruption.
GAP dismissed the managers' predictions as "crying wolf. Since 2002 Congress has passed eight new whistleblower laws. Each time their dire predictions flunked the reality test." Devine noted that based on projections from other laws giving new court access rights to corporate workers or federal employees victimized by race or sex discrimination, each federal judge or magistrate will have from .020 to .029 new cases annually.
With respect to disciplinary actions drying up, GAP studied litigation trends before and after the WPA's original passage. There were 175 accountability actions in the three years before, and 174 in the three years after. When D.C. passed a jury trial whistleblower law, the before-and-after statistics were identical.
Devine's testimony is available at http://www.whistleblower.org/doc/2009/devinesenatetestimony.pdf
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The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. We pursue this mission through our Nuclear Safety, International Reform, Corporate Accountability, Food & Drug Safety, and Federal Employee/National Security programs. GAP is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization.