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Congress may strengthen whistleblower protection

When a federal employee sees something wrong within their department or agency, the public would likely encourage their reporting the problem. The federal government is huge operation and with any large, multi-faceted bureaucracy, there are problems. And that is why the need arises for employees to speak out and, if necessary, become a whistleblower.

For any federal employee, the decision to become a whistleblower is difficult. When they witness wronging or inappropriate behavior, they may feel compelled to report the problem to their supervisors or managers, but what if their managers are responsible for the problem?

By making revelations critical and damaging to their supervisors and agency, they place their career in jeopardy. This can be a considerable risk, because they may have advanced degrees and many years of experience, and it may be difficult for them to begin again in a new line of work.

While whistleblowers should be protected by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, there is a significant gap in that act. A court of appeals decision allows an agency to designate a position as "sensitive" and thereby remove it from review by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

This gives an agency virtually unfettered discretion to punish whistleblowers, and one case involving a federal air marshal, who reported a decision by the service to eliminate air marshals on flights where an overnight stay was necessary. He went public when his internal complaints were ignored.

The decision by the agency was retroactively designated as "sensitive security information." He was fired  and left with no ability to appeal the action.

Recent hearings suggested that Congress might be interested in preventing this kind of agency retaliation. Whistleblowing is an important activity and given the personal risks whistleblowers take, the deserve all the protection Congress can afford them.

The Washington Post, "Bipartisan support for lame duck bill to strengthen whistleblower protections," Joe Davidson, September 11, 2014

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