(WASHINGTON) - The American Federation of Government Employees today thanked the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs for reporting out the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009 (S. 372) and expressed hope for a swift passage in the Senate.
“The Whistleblower Act essentially would act as a protector for the courageous federal workers who won’t stand for wrongdoings at their workplace,” AFGE National President John Gage said. “Furthermore, the Act would extend that protection to Transportation Security Officers, which only would serve to better protect our skies and the nation as a whole.”
Despite stated Congressional intent that TSOs be covered by the same whistleblower protections as other federal workers, TSA created a so-called whistleblower protection that failed to give TSOs the right to appeal adverse decisions to federal court. The provision included in the bill passed out of the Committee grants TSOs the right to seek protection from retaliation before the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protections Board under the same case law and precedents as other federal workers. TSOs for the first time would be able to bring charges of discrimination outlawed by the prohibited personnel practices before an independent third body, the MSPB.
In addition to granting TSOs enforceable whistleblower protections, the bill also provides meaningful improvement to current whistleblower law applying to most federal workers including the right to appeal adverse MSPB decisions to the federal circuit where they live and to a jury trial.
“Whistleblowers should be among the most respected employees—those who place morals and ethics above all else,” Gage added. “Whistleblower protections are a necessity, not a luxury. It is essential that federal employees be free to speak out against fraud, waste and abuse.”
AFGE is a founding member of the Make It Safe Coalition—the leading whistleblower reform advocacy group—which has worked with Congress for more than three years, and more recently with the Obama administration, to reach a workable consensus on meaningful whistleblower reforms for federal workers. More specifically, AFGE’s goal was to ensure that TSOs would receive the first workplace rights granted to them following court and administrative decisions stating that the TSA administrator had the authority to exempt TSOs from the same workplace laws and protections covering other federal workers, including workers at DHS.