FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tom Devine, GAP Legal Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 124
GAP Testifies at House Hearing For Government Whistleblowers
(Washington, D.C.) -- At House Government Oversight and Reform Committee hearings today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) called for quick action on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, HR 1507, a law that will give federal workers the right to jury trials when they are harassed for blowing the whistle on fraud, waste and abuse. GAP legal director Tom Devine testified that the reform “is essential as the integrity foundation for unprecedented spending, and for a commitment that America no longer will abuse human rights at home or abroad. It must be enacted before stimulus spending gets fully underway, to keep it honest.”
GAP’s testimony also emphasized that supporting jury trials for federal whistleblowers is a “credibility litmus test for the President’s transparency commitments, including his campaign and transition pledges that they will receive full access to court.” GAP noted that since 2002 Congress has included jury trial rights in eight whistleblower laws covering state and local employees, and most private sector workers. The group noted that federal employees now “are the only whistleblowers in the labor force for whom jury trials are the exception, rather than the rule.”
Devine and other Make It Safe Coalition witnesses expressed appreciation that the Obama administration has been talking with whistleblower rights groups. “In nearly 30 years, this is the first time an administration has asked for our views before it made a decision on whistleblower policy.” But he added, “We won’t be satisfied with anything less than justice.”
GAP’s testimony emphasized the necessity for jury trials as a “prerequisite for employees to take seriously their rights on paper.” The group noted that since the millennium the Merit System Protection Board has a 53-3 track record against whistleblowers in decisions on the merits, and current Chairman Neil McPhie’s record is 44-1 against whistleblowers. Devine’s testimony included a digest of every Board decision since 2000. It also debunked two objections to court access for whistleblowers that management made against every whistleblower law ever proposed or enacted – that the new rights would lead to employees flooding the courts, and that intimidated managers would be afraid to hold incompetents or troublemakers accountable.
GAP dismissed the managers’ predictions as “crying wolf. Since 2002 Congress has passed eight new whistleblower laws. Each time their dire predictions flunked the reality test.” Devine noted that based on projections from other laws giving new court access rights to corporate workers or federal employees victimized by race or sex discrimination, each federal judge or magistrate will have from .020 to .029 new cases annually.
With respect to disciplinary actions drying up, GAP studied litigation trends before and after the WPA’s original passage. There were 175 accountability actions in the three years before, and 174 in the three years after. When D.C. passed a jury trial whistleblower law, the before-and- after statistics were identical.
Devine praised the committee for holding the hearing and its sponsors for the bill: “If enacted, HR 1507 will set the global gold standard for accountability through transparency.”
Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Seattle, WA.