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Federal Employees News Digest : Aug 19, 2013
Phil Piemonte, Managing Editor E-mail: email@example.com What's Inside44 AUGUST 19, 2013 • VOL. 63, NO. 5 Federal whistleblower rights still lag those in the private sector Last week, FEND brought readers the first part of a conversation with Tom Devine, a leading advocate of whistleblower rights and legal director of the Government Accountability Project. In our last issue, FEND's Nathan Abse spoke with Devine about the evolution of the rights of federal whistleblowers, the history of the Whistleblower Protection Act, and events leading up the passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which President Obama signed into law last year. This week FEND presents the second half of this interview, in which Abse talks with Devine about the current state of whistleblower protection for federal employees, national secu- rity whistleblowers, and some of the issues federal whistleblowers can expect to encounter in today's legal environment. Devine, an attorney, and for more than three decades a Washington, D.C.-based advo- cate, was instrumental in shaping the federal Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. He has represented and aided more than 5,000 whistle- blowers. Q&A with Whistleblower Advocate Tom Devine You say there has been progress of late on whistleblower issues---can you explain your optimism to our readers? Devine: Persistence seems to be pay- ing off, despite the [Federal Circuit] court's long history of hostile activism. Last fall, and for the fourth time, Congress unanimously approved a free speech mandate for govern- ment workers---restoring all the rights it had passed [more than once], but with more teeth. The Congress also began a two-year experi- ment, finally removing for a time the Federal Circuit's monopoly on these cases and permit- ting regular courts to review these cases. What's the state of federal whistleblowers today? Devine: We're in the middle of a real makeover in the rights of federal whistleblow- ers. Congress indeed has restored and added some teeth to the high-water mark for free speech rights for feds---meaning, taking us back to a little better than where we were, on paper, in 1994. The law still isn't as strong as Congress's [whistleblower] laws for corporate workers, beginning with the Sarbanes-Oxley law of 2002. Some of the same key issues--- and [the question of] whether these rights will be extended from the private sector to federal employees---are now part of a two- year GAO study. But one of the teeth still missing is the option of jury trials, especially in cases where civil service employees don't get a timely administrative ruling. Another missing part is to make this two-year experi- ment in normal access to other courts per- manent. Right now, [employees] are largely limited to administrative remedies. All too often, this means the administrative law pro- cess is politicized. It just doesn't have judicial independence, and it doesn't challenge the powers that be. Here, I mean the MSPB and administrative law judges. I have to say that President Obama has appointed very outstanding jurists to head the MSPB. Yet the administrative judges who handle the cases Over there For many years, especially in the beginning, being a reporter was fun, different and some- times dangerous. I've been shot at three times (they weren't aiming at me, but I was in the way). I've been through some brick, bottle and base- ball bat riots. Been run out of town once (along with a rival reporter from another paper) by an angry crowd. I also got to fly in an Army helicopter, go onboard an aircraft carrier (the George Washington) and a submarine, although it didn't dive. Now the biggest problem I face is D.C. traffic in the a.m. and p.m. And not hit- ting students at the traffic circle around the American University. (Many of them seem to think that wearing earbuds gives them immunity from large, fast-moving buses and cars.) But a life of danger, not so much. And while I love to travel, and do it a bit, there are many times when I wouldn't trade places with State Department, AID or USIA workers in many (maybe most) of the posts where they work. Like earlier this month, when Uncle Sam shut down 19 embassies across the world because of a high-level threat of terrorism. Most of us will probably never know what the threats were, how close they came to happening or if the early August drone strike in Yemen was a factor. Most of us will probably never know what INSIGHT BY MIKE CAUSEY continued on page 2 For more news...see Federal Daily at www.FederalDaily.com • Deadline nears for same-sex couples 3 • USPS post Q3 results 4 • You Be the Judge 5 • Informed Investor 7 • Federal Benefits Q&A 8 continued on page 3
Aug 12, 2013
Aug 26, 2013