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New whistleblower protections pass through Congress

Congress expanded legal protections for employees who report wrongdoing and illegal conduct within the government. Advocates for whistleblower protections say that this enhanced protection has been a long time coming. The effort to extend protection to government employees reaches back more than ten years.

There are several key elements to the new law, which is called the Whistleblower Protection Enforcement Act (WPEA). The Office of Special Counsel is the government entity that oversees and enforces the law, and they will now have greater latitude to pursue disciplinary action in cases where supervisors have retaliated against their employees for reporting misconduct.

Another problem the law seeks to solve is retaliatory investigations, which some supervisors initiate to try to force employees out of their jobs or uncover wrongdoing that discredits their report.

In general, advocates say that WPEA closes loopholes and enhances protection for those serving their country as federal employees. One of the senators who sponsored the bill told reporters that it is important to "protect public servant whistleblowers who risk their careers to disclose waste, fraud and abuse. They make the federal government more effective and save taxpayers money."

The measure was passed with bipartisan support and now awaits a signature from the Presidents before it becomes a law.

Some government whistleblowers have not enjoyed the protection from retaliation that private sector workers have. One group that will benefit under WPEA are employees of the Transportation Security Administration, where I think we can all agree it is in the nation's best interest to encourage reporting of illegal activity.

Employees should not be fired or lose work opportunities because they did the right thing and reported troubling information to the proper authorities.

Source: Washington Post, "Congress approves federal whistleblower protections," Joe Davidson, Nov. 14, 2012.

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