U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL ANNOUNCES PRESS CONFERENCE WITH TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION TO UNVEIL AGREEMENT TO PROVIDE WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION TO FEDERAL AVIATION SECURITY SCREENERS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 5/29/02
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan will hold a press conference on Thursday,
May 30th at 10:00 a.m., to discuss an agreement between the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to provide whistleblower protection for federal airline security screeners. The Honorable
John Magaw, Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, and the Honorable Kenneth M. Mead, Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, will be joining Special Counsel Kaplan at this news event to be held at 1730 M Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC.
The Conference Report on the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), which created TSA, states that aviation “screening personnel must . . . be given whistleblower protections so that security personnel may report security conditions without fear of reprisal.” However, the Act itself provided the Under Secretary of Transportation with the authority to set terms and conditions of employment himself, notwithstanding other provisions of law. As a result, the screening personnel were not afforded the civil service protections provided to other federal employees, including those provided by the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA).
Last December, Special Counsel Kaplan wrote to the Secretary of Transportation, the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, and proposed that OSC receive and investigate complaints of whistleblower retaliation from the aviation screeners either through an inter-agency agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). That letter began a process of negotiation that resulted in the MOU that is the subject of Thursday’s press conference. At the press conference, Special Counsel Kaplan, Under Secretary Magaw, and Inspector General Mead will discuss the details of the MOU and answer questions. Copies of the MOU can be obtained at the press conference.
OSC is an independent agency within the executive branch, whose statutory mission is to enforce the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (WPA). That law makes it a “prohibited personnel practice” for an agency manager to take a personnel action against a covered federal employee because the employee disclosed information that he or she reasonably believed evidenced a violation of law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a specific and substantial danger to the public health or safety. The majority of federal employees, including employees of the Department of Transportation, are covered by the WPA.