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7.15.2016

Attorney Debra D'Agostino Comments On Rise Of Whistleblower Cases And Findings In Favor of Employees

Written by: Federal Practice Group
Written by: Federal Practice Group

News & Media

Federal News Radio recently turned to Attorney D'Agostino for insight into a pair of surprising statistics to come out of 2015. Last year, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) received and processed more whistleblower disclosures and prohibited personnel practice (PPP) complaints than any year before. And equally as surprising was the huge uptick in victories by employees.

According to the statistics, the OSC received over 6,100 new cases in 2015—a sharp rise over the 5,236 cases received in 2014. Of those 2015 cases, roughly two-thirds were PPP complaints, a majority of which, the agency has disclosed, involve whistleblower reprisals.

Why has the agency received such a huge spike in caseload? And why have employees won at such a higher percentage? According to Attorney D'Agostino, a shift in culture has emboldened whistleblowers and encouraged wronged federal employees to speak out. "Whistleblowing is one of those things that is more comfortable if you’re not alone," she told Federal News Radio. "At the VA, for example, people saw OSC responding appropriately, and they felt more comfortable coming out themselves. Now that people are seeing that OSC is responding meaningfully to their complaints, people are more willing to stick out their neck to blow the whistle."

"BETTER AND MORE ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNMENT"

According to Attorney D'Agostino, the OSC wasn't always as responsive and effective as it has shown itself to be in the last few years. In fact, she and her colleagues used to jokingly call the agency a "black hole" for federal employee complaints.

However, improvement has been fostered by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and other showings of congressional support. Lawmakers recently reauthorized the OSC for another five years after letting the agency languish for nearly a decade. OSC Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner recently recognized this support in the OSC annual report Congress. "While OSC has one of the smallest budgets of any federal law enforcement agency with government wide jurisdiction, the demands on our agency have never been greater," she wrote. "With Congress’ continued support, OSC will be able to keep pace with its rising caseload and continue to promote better and more accountable government."

Read more about Attorney D'Agostino's insight into this issue at in the article "OSC whistleblower cases hit record highs in 2015" at the Federal News Radio website.

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