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Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Whistleblower Protection Legislation

January 03, 1989

To the Congress of the United States:

I am pleased to transmit for your consideration and enactment the "Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989." Federal employees who blow the whistle on fraud, waste, abuse, and violations of the law help to ensure that the Federal Government uses American taxpayers' dollars effectively and efficiently. The Nation's laws must encourage such reports and protect those who make them from reprisal.

At the close of the last Congress, I withheld my approval from S. 508, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988, because of the constitutional and other defects in that bill. The measure I am transmitting today corrects those defects. The legislation protects from reprisal Federal employees who expose wrongdoing within the Government. It also ensures that Federal personnel managers are not burdened with routinely defending appropriate personnel decisions.

The "Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989" grants to Federal employees for the first time the right to initiate an action before the Merit Systems Protection Board to contest a personnel action on the ground that it was taken as a reprisal for whistleblowing. The legislation also grants job transfer preference to whistleblowers in filling jobs of equivalent status and tenure as the job held by the whistleblowing employee.

The proposed legislation establishes the Office of Special Counsel as an independent office within the Executive Branch. The Office would protect Federal employees from prohibited personnel practices. To assist in the conduct of investigations in executing this function, the Special Counsel may administer oaths, examine witnesses, take depositions, and receive evidence. The Special Counsel also may seek orders from the Merit Systems Protection Board to stay a personnel action with respect to an employee until the employee's case is resolved.

Under the bill, when the Special Counsel determines that reasonable grounds exist to believe that a prohibited personnel practice has occurred, the Special Counsel generally reports that determination to the agency involved, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Office of Personnel Management, and in appropriate cases, the President. When necessary to ensure that an agency found to have engaged in a prohibited personnel practice takes corrective action, the Special Counsel may seek an order from the Merit Systems Protection Board requiring such actions. In cases involving reprisal for whistleblowing, the individual who does not prevail in the proceeding before the Merit Systems Protection Board may seek Federal court review of the Board's decision.

The bill also entitles employees who make allegations to the Office of Special Counsel to notification of the results of the Office's investigation. The Office of Special Counsel may investigate allegations it receives and may initiate investigations on its own.

Finally, I would note that the proposed legislation does not contain the constitutional defects that were contained in S. 508 of the 100th Congress. Unlike that bill, the proposed legislation is consistent with the constitutional separation of powers, investment of the Executive power in the President, and the proper exercise of the Judicial power of the United States. I urge the Congress to enact the "Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989" swiftly to extend important protections and procedural rights to employees of the Federal Government.


The White House,

January 3, 1989.

Ronald Reagan, Message to the Congress Transmitting Proposed Whistleblower Protection Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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