A bipartisan bill before President Trump awaits his signature to become law. It seeks to clarify whistleblower protections under the law that shield employees of the federal government who disobey their superiors’ directives when they violate regulations or are otherwise illegal.
Known as the “Follow the Rules Act.” H.R. 657 was co-sponsoreded by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. and Sean Duffy, R-Wis. Its passage mitigates the perceived misinterpretation by the Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit.
The specific case involved was Rainey v. MSPB and dealt with the director of the State Department African Affairs program, Timothy Rainey. He was the recipient of negative performance reviews and then removed from duty because he allegedly wouldn’t compel a contractor to re-hire a subcontractor who was fired previously.
Rainey’s case went first to the Office of Special Counsel, as Rainey claimed the Federal Acquisition Regulation kept him from obeying the order from his boss. When that was unsuccessful, Rainey then approached the Merit Systems Protection Board. He cited the “right to disobey” as protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.
However, both the ruling from the appeals court and the MSPB restricted his rights, claiming the FAR is not a law but a regulation.
Duffy’s 2016 bill sought to clarify matters by broadening “the prohibition against a person taking, failing to take, or threatening to take or fail to take a personnel action against any employee or applicant for employment for refusing to obey an order that would require the individual to violate a law to personnel actions against such an individual for refusing to obey an order that would violate a rule or regulation.”
As it stands now, the court’s decision permits supervisors to compel federal employees to “violate the rules and regulations . . . Congress . . . directs . . . agencies to implement.”
Connolly, who serves on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, cited the committee’s reliance on whistleblowers to aid them in detecting corruption, abuse and mismanagement.
Whistleblowers depend upon protection from retaliation and wrongful termination when they expose employers’ misdeeds. Seeking legal representation can offer some guidance in these matters.
Source: Government Executive, “Bill to Protect Whistleblowers Who Refuse to Break Rules Goes to President,” Charles S. Clark, May 31, 2017