The Senate has again voted to require that agencies include whistleblower protection in performance evaluations for supervisors and take discipline against a supervisor found to have taken retaliation.

The Senate earlier had passed the language as a separate bill (S-582) but attaching it to the DoD bill makes it virtually certain of eventual enactment, since that bill is one of the few that Congress passes each year.

The proposed disciplinary action would have to be at least a suspension of three days for the first finding of a prohibited personnel action and removal for any subsequent finding. Similar language currently applies only at the VA.

The language further would make it a prohibited personnel practice for an agency official to access an employee’s medical records or to take a personnel action because the employee cooperated with an internal agency review or investigation or because the employee refused to obey an order that would require the employee to violate a rule or regulation. It also would clarify that whistleblower protections apply to employees whose primary duties are investigating and disclosing wrongdoing.

It also would require agencies to provide training to supervisors on whistleblower protections and how to respond to an allegation of a violation of whistleblower protection laws, and require agencies to notify an employee of his or her appeals rights when subject to an adverse action including the available forums in which an appeal can be filed and the effect on the employee’s appeal rights based on the selected forum.

It further would guarantee the Office of Special Counsel timely access to all agency documents or other information that relate to a matter within its jurisdiction and would clarify that an agency cannot withhold any information on grounds of common law privilege.