R. Scott Oswald, managing principal of The Employment Law Group® law firm, was recently interviewed by Law360 regarding the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), which the U.S. Senate unanimously passed last week.
If also passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the WPEA would expand whistleblower protections against retaliation by making it easier for whistleblowers to claim protected status, by eliminating the Federal Circuit’s exclusive appellate jurisdiction over certain whistleblower cases for a period of five years, and by allowing jury trials under certain circumstances for employees who sue agencies that retaliate against whistleblowers. Additionally, if enacted, the WPEA would extend whistleblower rights to approximately 40,000 airport baggage screeners.
Since 1994, whistleblowers have only prevailed in 3 out of 220 retaliation lawsuits heard by the Federal Circuit. According to Mr. Oswald, “The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act takes direct aim at the Federal Circuit precedents by [extending] protection to several new classes of employees, including employees of the Transportation Security Administration and intelligence agencies”.
“This is a critical reform,” Oswald stated, “Whistleblowers will know their disclosures won’t be held against them if they come forward with that information in good faith.”
Oswald also emphasized that the WPEA would “restore protections intended by the original Whistleblower Protection Act by protecting communications related to an employee’s official duties and communication with supervisors.” This, according to Oswald, “[could] help agencies deal with fraud or other problems internally”.
“We want individuals to make disclosures at the lowest possible level and not feel like they have to file a complaint with the inspector general in every instance,” Oswald said.
Finally, Oswald noted, the law would also “expressly prohibit relocation or revoking an employee’s security clearance as retaliation for blowing the whistle, which can amount to retaliatory firing by other means for some employees.”
The article, entitled “Senate Bill Would Boost Whistleblowers’ Chances In Court”, appeared in the May 15, 2012 edition of the web-based legal news service, Law360.