A long walk

On Behalf of | Nov 12, 2014 | Employee Law

Whistleblowers are sometimes seen opportunists, with the implication that they are looking for a short-term gain or profit by their actions. As if by whistleblowing, they were taking a short-cut to wealth and profits.

In reality, whistleblowing can leave them on a very long walk to obtaining relief. A case involving an Air Marshal who was fired by the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in retaliation after he informed the media and Congress that the agency was planning on eliminating air marshals on flights that would require an overnight stay by the air marshal.

This, of course, could save money, as the agency would not have to pay for the costs associated with an air marshal staying in a hotel and other costs. However, it would have meant that those flights would have no air marshal protection, and that would seem to create a “specific danger to public health or safety.”

That language is the description of protected statement under the federal the Whistleblower Protection Act. And the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to be sympathetic to his attorney’s arguments.

Justice Sotomayor even stated that the “facts are very much in your favor.” The government’s claims were a variation of a “floodgates” argument. They argue that thousand of disgruntled TSA employees could disclose sensitive information.

This is not the most compelling of arguments, as it ignores the facts of the present case and is inherently speculative. If there are thousands of disgruntled TSA employees, perhaps the TSA has other fundamental management issues.

However, even if the Court rules in favor of the whistleblower, after eight years, his struggle is far from over.

At that point, he returns to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and must proceed to win back his job by showing his termination was retaliation for his embarrassing his management at the TSA.

Los Angeles Times, “Supreme Court seems to back ex-TSA air marshal’s whistle-blower claim,” David G. Savage, November 4, 2014