The Senate on Tuesday sent to the president’s desk a bill—13 years in the making—that would significantly expand whistle-blower protections to federal employees who expose wrongdoing. The legislation would close loopholes created by court rulings that left whistle-blowers vulnerable and increase their rights.
One such loophole meant whistle-blowers were protected only if they were the first to expose misconduct. New whistle-blower rights include the ability to challenge results of government policy decisions.
Specific protections would be given to certain employees, including government scientists who challenge censorship and workers at the Transportation Security Administration, who provide screening at airports.
The bill also would clarify a 24-year-old portion of appropriations bills, to make clear that agency restrictions on disclosures are superseded by the right to communicate with Congress and other whistle-blower rights.
To stop illegal retaliation, the bill would make it easier to discipline those responsible, by modifying the burden of proof required when taking action against those trying to punish whistle-blowers. Also, the Office of Special Counsel, which was established to protect federal employees, would no longer be liable for attorney fees of government managers if the office does not prevail in a disciplinary action.