Transportation security officers get more whistleblower protection

The Transportation Security Administration and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) announced an agreement today to expand whistleblower rights for transportation security officers (TSOs).

Under the pact, transportation security officers can appeal whistleblower retaliation complaints to the board, adding an extra layer of protection, according to TSA and board officials. Previously, there was no recourse for appeal after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which has the authority to investigate TSO whistleblower retaliation complaints, closed a case.

“For their sake and the sake of security, this agreement with MSPB provides TSA officers with another independent avenue for whistleblower concerns,” TSA Administrator Kip Hawley said in a statement.

MSPB Chairman Neil McPhie said the agreement for third-party review “should increase the confidence of security officers to make these disclosures and contribute to the traveling public’s sense of safety.”

However, the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 2,000 TSOs at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said the agreement was not enough—whistleblower rights need to codified in statute.

“Rather than leave the extension of this much-needed right for TSOs to the [TSA’s] discretion, we are going to continue to seek legislation on this issue,” said NTEU president Colleen Kelley. “TSA’s token effort to increase worker protection is not good enough.”

Kelley said the union will press for approval of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007, introduced in the House early last year by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), which would provide TSA employees with whistleblower rights. No action has been taken on the bill since it was referred last June to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Government Management and the Federal Workforce Subcommittee.

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