The Aug. 17 letter from former senator Larry Pressler was headlined: "Who Protects the Whistle-Blower?" The answer -- at least for the federal work force -- is: We do.
"We" are the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent agency that I head. Congress established the OSC more than 20 years ago and charged it with the mission of protecting federal employee whistle-blowers against retaliation. We investigate allegations of whistle-blower retaliation and prosecute them in meritorious cases in which an agency refuses to voluntarily take corrective action. We also have the authority to seek the discipline of federal officials who engage in such retaliation.
While the OSC is a small agency, its accomplishments are significant. Just in the past year or so, the OSC sought and obtained a stay of the transfer of an assistant district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who alleged the transfer was in retaliation for his congressional testimony that was critical of the "Citizenship USA" program.
We secured a significant monetary settlement for a federal employee working as a guidance counselor at a military installation, who alleged that she was fired for disclosing an instance of serious child abuse by a parent.
And with the cooperation of the Department of the Interior, back pay and other relief were provided to several seasonal employees of Crater Lake National park, who alleged that they were denied re-employment because they complained about the safety of tour boats.
In the past four years, the OSC has obtained favorable relief for nearly 300 whistle-blowers, as well as disciplinary sanctions against numerous managers.
To be sure, in large part because of staffing limitations and the vast number of complaints we receive, there are delays in our processing of cases. There is also a lot of ignorance among federal employees and their managers, not only about the OSC's existence, but also about the laws proscribing whistle-blower retaliation.
Nonetheless, we intend to continue to protect federal whistle-blowers against retaliation and work to educate the federal work force about their rights and responsibilities under the law.
U.S. Office of Special Counsel