Millions of civil federal employees no longer need live in fear of retaliation for standing up to wrongdoing in the workplace. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) (S. 743 as amended) was unanimously passed by the Senate on Tuesday after being approved by the House of Representatives in September. The WPEA is now on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk, and he is expected to sign the bill.
Public Citizen applauds its passage. The act provides federal employees with important protections. It:
- Extends the current law’s protection beyond the first person who discloses fraud and/or abuse;
- Overrides the U.S. Supreme Court Garcetti v. Ceballos decision, which held that public employees have no First Amendment protection for speech communicated as part of their job duties; and
- Allows economic damages for whistleblowers after an administrative hearing.
The bill also extends whistleblower rights to approximately 40,000 airport baggage screeners.
Public Citizen thanks the tireless efforts of retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), a long-time champion in the 13-year legislative campaign to pass the WPEA. Additionally we recognize the hard work and dedication of U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.).
We also acknowledge U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Todd Platts (R-Pa.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and many others for tirelessly leading the charge for these commonsense reforms.
Reforms such as these create a vehicle for workers to safely call out potential hazards in the workplace without retaliation from their employers. By giving federal workers more opportunity and resources to identify hazardous workplace situations, the government will become more efficient.
Keith Wrightson is Public Citizen’s workplace safety expert. Follow him @SafeWorkers and sign up for our worker safety digest.