March 15, 2017

Wyden, Grassley, McCaskill: Bring Whistleblower Protections to Capitol Hill

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, today introduced legislation to expand protections for whistleblowers in the legislative branch. 

The bill shields congressional employees from retaliation when they expose fraud, waste or misconduct. It is modeled after policies that protect whistleblowers in many executive branch agencies.

“Whistleblowers are a crucial line of defense against government waste, fraud and abuse. No branch of government – including Congress – should be allowed to retaliate against whistleblowers working to protect our democracy,” Wyden said. “That’s why, as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, I am joining Sens. Grassley and McCaskill to give whistleblowers in the legislative branch the types of protections granted by law to executive branch workers.”

“Thirty years ago, I led the charge to apply a dozen workplace laws to Capitol Hill.  There’s no reason not to do the same with whistleblower protections. For many years, whistleblowers in the federal bureaucracy have raised the alarm when they encounter fraud, waste or abuse at their agency, saving taxpayer dollars and improving government operations,” Grassley said. “And for many years, Congress has worked to protect them from retaliation. Employees on Capitol Hill should also be encouraged to disclose problems without fear of retaliation. This bill simply applies to Congress the same philosophy that government workers should not be punished for disclosing wrongdoing.”

“It’s important that Congress lead by example—it’s ridiculous to have and advocate for whistleblower protections across the federal government and not have those same protections in place for Congressional staff,” McCaskill said. “Our staff can be in a unique position to identify and report waste, fraud, and abuse and protecting them from retaliation is critically important.”

The senators’ bill is modeled after the Whistleblower Protection Act, which establishes a process for whistleblowers in many executive branch agencies to disclose concerns and prohibits agency authorities from retaliating against employees for such disclosures. The bill amends the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to include the same principles. 

In a letter to 17 federal agencies last week, Wyden, Grassley, McCaskill and eight other members of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus called on the Trump Administration to promote a culture that welcomes whistleblower disclosures and condemns attacks on whistleblower rights.

The Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus raises awareness of the need for adequate protections against retaliation for private sector and government employees who call attention to wrongdoing.  The caucus’ mission is to foster bipartisan discussion on legislative issues affecting the treatment of whistleblowers and serve as a clearinghouse for current information on whistleblower developments as well as best practices for responding to whistleblower disclosures and claims of retaliation.

The letter was sent to the following agencies:

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Commerce

U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

U.S. Department of the Interior

U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. Small Business Administration

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of the Treasury

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Office of the United States Trade Representative

U.S. Office of Management and Budget

U.S. Department of Homeland Security