Senate Votes to Approve Whistleblower Rights for Feds


In December, the Senate voted to approve S. 274, which would expand whistleblower rights for federal employees. The measure, introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), would make it clear 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. The bill also would provide for an independent determination about the possibility of retaliation against an employee-whistleblower for protected disclosures, and would suspend for five years the exclusive jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to interpret the Federal Whistleblowers Act. That court has issued decisions substantially narrowing whistleblower rights and protections.

“I am very pleased by Senate approval of a measure on this vital subject,” NTEU National President Colleen Kelley recently stated. While applauding Senate approval of S. 274, Kelley also called on House and Senate members to agree on a final measure incorporating the more expansive protective provisions for whistleblowers contained in House-passed legislation earlier this year, H.R. 985. That bill, introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), provides that whistleblowers—in this context, federal employees who expose instances of waste, fraud, abuse and serious mismanagement in government agencies—would have access to federal district courts in the event the Merit Systems Protection Board fails to act on their claims within 180 days. It also would allow all circuits of federal appellate courts to review such cases.

NTEU has a long history of supporting expansive whistleblower rights, which is in line with its commitment to securing and protecting the free speech rights of federal workers.