Office That Protects Whistleblowers Fires Warning Shot Across Trump’s Bow

The Office of Special Counsel, an agency that protects whistleblowers in the federal government, on Wednesday issued a reminder that any non-disclosure agreements or policies on employee communications must include language notifying federal employees of their whistleblower rights.

“Under the anti-gag provision, agencies cannot impose nondisclosure agreements and policies that fail to include required language that informs employees that their statutory right to blow the whistle supersedes the terms and conditions of the nondisclosure agreement or policy,” the OSC press release said.

The OSC reminder followed several reports that employees at agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency were told not to issue press releases or use official social media accounts. There is also speculation that President Donald Trump may require some administration employees to sign non-disclosure agreements, as he has required his employees to do so in the past.

The press release sent out by the Office of Special Counsel on Wednesday noted that the anti-gag order provision in the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) requires that agencies must notify employees about their whistleblower rights in any nondisclosure agreement or general policy regarding communication.

The Office of Special Counsel has jurisdiction over most of the federal government agencies, but not the FBI or intelligence community.

The OSC also noted that whistleblower laws protect employees who blow the whistle “on any effort to ‘distort, misrepresent, suppress’ or otherwise censor any government ‘research, analysis, or technical information’ that the employee reasonably believes could, among other things, pose a substantial and significant threat to the public health or safety or constitute a violation of law, rule, or regulation.”

The press release also included a reminder that the Office of Special Counsel provides trainings to federal agencies and offered examples about whistleblower protections for federal employees.

A spokesman for President Donald Trump’s EPA transition team, Doug Ericksen, told NPR that the administration will likely review research from EPA scientists on a “case-by-case” basis. The Trump administration has also made plans to make changes to the EPA’s climate change website, which links to data on global warming and carbon emissions.

Read the press release:

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