Two Democratic members of Congress on Thursday sent a letter to the White House counsel informing him that several reported gag orders sent to federal agencies violate several laws, citing a memo directing employees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) not to speak with members of Congress.
In the letter, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said that the acting head of HHS sent a memo to employees barring them from communicating with public officials. There have also been several reports that employees at other agencies have been sent gag orders restricting their communications.
Cummings and Pallone note in the letter that U.S. laws protect federal workers’ rights to communicate with Congress and that the memo to HHS employees violates those laws.
The letter also reminds the Trump administration about whistleblower protection laws that require directives about staff communication to notify employees of their right to blow the whistle. The Office of Special Counsel, an agency that protects federal employees’ whistleblower rights, also issued a reminder this week, noting that federal staff must be made aware of their whistleblower rights in any nondisclosure agreement or general policy about communication.
“For more than a century, Congress has protected the rights of federal employees to communicate with Congress about waste, fraud, and abuse in the Executive Branch,” Cummings and Pallone wrote in the letter. “For the reasons set forth above, we urge you to immediately rescind all policies on employee communications that do not comply with the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and other federal statutes.”
H/t Washington Post