1/15/07: NTEU today offered its strong support of bipartisan legislation that would significantly buttress the rights and protections afforded federal employees who bring to light instances of government fraud, waste and mismanagement. The union's support for the measure is in line with its long history of fighting to protect and advance the First Amendment rights of federal employees.
The legislation, S. 274, the Federal Employee Protection of Disclosure Act, was introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) with nine bipartisan cosponsors, and is similar to legislation supported by NTEU in the last Congress.
Among other important steps, said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley, the Akaka-Collins measure “would close a very dangerous loophole” created last year when the Supreme Court ruled that public employees have no First Amendment protections when they speak out in furtherance of their duties. The impact of that decision, dealing with a matter involving the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, was to effectively strip from federal employees protection from retaliation if they disclose information obtained through their job. Further, the decision compounded problems caused by rulings of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction to interpret the Federal Whistleblowers Act and which has issued decisions substantially narrowing whistleblower rights and protections.
The Akaka-Collins bill makes clear it is the intent of Congress that federal employees are protected for any disclosure of waste, fraud or abuse, including on those matters learned about in connection with an employee’s job duties. It also would provide for an independent determination about the possibility of retaliation against an employee-whistleblower for protected disclosures, and it would suspend for five years the appeals court’s sole jurisdiction over federal employee whistleblower cases.