Obama To Whistleblowers: I’ve got your back!

On November 27, 2012, President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection and Enhancement Act, a bill which supporters had been attempting to get passed for more than a decade.  The statute increases the protections already in place for federal employees who witness waste, fraud or abuse within the federal government.  Among its components, the law:  a) lowers the standard of proof whistleblowers must meet in order to receive protection; b) closes loopholes in the original 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act; c) makes it easier for the Office of Special Counsel, which is the federal agency in charge of protecting whistleblowers, to discipline employers or agencies who retaliate against whistleblowers and d) allows certain whistleblowers who have a successful case to recover compensatory damages. The compensation provided under the Whistleblower Protection and Enhancement Act is different from the monetary awards that can be received by whistleblowers in the private sector.

Some advocates view the adoption of this law as a change in the Obama administration’s attitude towards whistleblowers.  These advocates had been angered by the administration’s past stance against whistleblowers and its decision to prosecute individuals under the Espionage Act.  The Government Accountability Project has indicated that President Obama restored a large portion of the bill protecting national security whistleblowers. According to the Project’s legal director, Tom Devine, “[m]ost Presidents have offered lip service for whistleblower rights, but President Obama fought to give them more teeth.”

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