Congress Considering Bill to Enhance Whistleblower Protections

On May 8, 2012, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The proposed bill would increase safeguards for federal employees who act as whistleblowers. Many in Washington D.C. are unwilling to get their hopes up about the bill becoming law, however, since this the bill has been proposed in various congressional sessions for over a decade and has been approved by the House and Senate at different times along the way. While many can agree the goal behind the legislation of eliminating fraud and waste is good, there are some reasons the bill may not become law.

More Protection for Federal Employees

The bill includes several provisions offering more protections for federal employees who report waste or fraud. The bill would extend whistleblower protections to Transportation Security Administration and intelligence agency employees for the first time and prevent government agencies from revoking security clearances in retaliation for whistleblowing.

The bill would also allow employees in certain cases to have jury trials when they sue government agencies for retaliation for whistleblowing. The bill would give jurisdiction to other courts for such cases besides the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The Office of Special Counsel would have more power to discipline those who retaliate against whistleblowers under the proposed law.

Barriers to Becoming Law

The fact the Senate passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is not a guarantee that it will become law. This is the fourth time the Senate has approved the bill. The House of Representatives now needs to take action on the matter, but the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has not yet recommended the bill for a reading in front of the full House - despite unanimous committee approval of the bill.

Part of the delay stems from the fact that some lawmakers worry that national security may be compromised if sensitive information leaks out in whistleblower disclosures. Supporters of the bill argue that extending whistleblower protection to intelligence agency employees will strengthen both economic and national security by eliminating fraud and waste and empowering employees to report such abuses without fear they are risking their careers.

Talk to a Lawyer

Making the decision to report wrongdoing in a job can be scary, particularly when a person risks his or her career to do so. If you are facing retaliation for whistle blowing activity, consult a seasoned employment law attorney who can defend your rights.