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Federal Employees News Digest : Aug 12, 2013
Phil Piemonte, Managing Editor E-mail: email@example.com What's Inside44 August 12, 2013 • Vol. 63, No. 4 Whistleblower protection advances--- but issues remain Last November, President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act---a law which should close many loopholes in existing protections that for decades were used by agencies and courts to deny retaliation protection and other needed support to fed- eral whistleblowers. WPEA explicitly protects federal workers who are the first person to disclose misconduct, who disclose misconduct to coworkers or supervisors, who disclose the consequences of a policy decision, or who blow the whistle while carrying out their job duties--- all of which had become unprotected or under- protected circumstances. However, even under the new WPEA, there is no blanket protection on this front that permits full access to all avail- able avenues of appeal. This week and next, FEND brings readers a conversation with Tom Devine, a leading advo- cate of whistleblower rights and legal director of the Government Accountability Project, as FEND's Nathan Abse talks with him about the current state of whistleblower protection for federal employees. Devine, an attorney, and for more than three decades a Washington, D.C.- based advocate, was instrumental in shaping the first federal Whistleblower Protection Act of 1978. He has represented and aided more than 5,000 whistleblowers. Q&A with Whistleblower Advocate Tom Devine For decades, there has been very lim- ited protection for whistleblowers among federal employees---and the laws passed to strengthen protections were repeatedly weakened by federal courts. In most typi- cal circumstances, as a fed you weren't given protection at all---for instance, if you were the first to blow the whistle or if you blew the whistle as part of your duties. How did this situation occur? Devine: Yes, we have endorsed it, and we think the strategy in this bill is right on: Leveraging technology to reduce expenses in government---which is a huge opportu- nity here, more telework to create greater efficiency. But at a higher level, we also see the value the bill offers in creating a more distributed workforce---[a workforce that operates far beyond the office environ- ment.] In short, this bill presses for far greater use of new technology, and we all know that the current technology makes us overdue for really enabling a teleworker- enabled environment. Legal precedents---for the most part, a single federal court that cut protections--- effectively left employees defenseless. How did this happen? In the 1990s, a series of loopholes were created by a court---as part of a long tradition of abuse by that court---which has a monopoly on review of [federal employee] whistleblower protec- tions, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The court first [made a series of decisions] that gutted the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act's whistleblower protections, and these decisions were a primary impetus behind the passage of the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act. That act overturned all of the previous hostile rulings. Just the facts The recent surprise sale of The Washington Post newspaper triggered a lot of reruns for the thousands of people who worked there over the years. Like me. Especially those of us on the 5th floor, where the newsroom was. The same newsroom (built to scale in Hollywood) you saw in the movie All The President's Men. I spent three decades at the Post. It meant meeting a lot of people (the newsroom alone had about 600 people at its peak, maybe even more) both at the office, and in the course of doing business. A couple of weeks before the sale, a former colleague, another reporter about my age, wrote a wonderful column about his years at the Post. What he had seen and done. That also took me down memory lane. I started thinking about how many won- derful, helpful people I met over the years, and how so many of them helped me, often when they didn't have too. Sometimes when they shouldn't have. Sometimes saving my neck. In all those years, there were only four people I dealt with---all government types--- that were, for me, the perfect sources. They were smart, which is a given. And they knew the subject and the players. Again, what you would expect. But although three of them were very partisan, they could all explain a situation to me outlining all sides of the argument. INSIGHT BY MIKE CAUSEY continued on page 2 For more news...see Federal Daily at www.FederalDaily.com • 'Anti-fed' bills hit House 3 • Postal reform moves forward 4 • No DOD furlough decision 4 • In Brief 5 • Informed Investor 7 • Federal Benefits Q&A 8 continued on page 3
Aug 5, 2013
Aug 19, 2013