The annual DoD authorization bill (HR-2810) that is up for final voting in Congress would continue an emphasis on protections for federal employee whistleblowers that has been a theme of Congress this year.
The bill incorporates a separate measure that had previously advanced in Congress reauthorizing the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates whistleblower retaliation complaints and that can bring disciplinary charges against management officials responsible. It contains many of the same provisions of a recently enacted law providing for mandatory discipline of those who take reprisal and requiring that agencies better inform their employees of whistleblower protections and rights.
The OSC-related language in the DoD bill also: strengthens the OSC’s access to agency documents during its investigations; allows it to ask the MSPB to order that employees be reimbursed for the legal and other costs they incur if an agency starts or expands an investigation of them as an act of reprisal; and clarifies that whistleblower protections extend to employees whose normal job duties involve pointing out wrongdoing.
It also adds a requirement that performance appraisals for supervisors include assessing how they deal with whistleblowers–whether they “respond constructively” when employees make disclosures; take “responsible actions” to resolve the disclosures; and “foster an environment in which employees of the agency feel comfortable making disclosures.”