The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that government workers who speak out on issues beyond their own disciplines are protected against employer retaliation, a decision that encouraged advocates for federal whistleblowers.
The case — Lane v. Franks — involved Edward Lane, a youth program director at a community college in Alabama, who was fired by college president Steve Franks after he testified in a public corruption trial involving a state legislator on the college payroll who performed no work. Lane fired the legislator, Suzanne Schmitz, and she is now serving a prison sentence, according to a dispatch in The New York Times.
Lane was fired from his job and subsequently sued.
The Washington-based Government Accountability Project, which had filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Lanes side, welcomed the outcome on Friday.
All whistleblowers should be grateful that the Supreme Court recognized their indispensable role making a difference, GAP Legal Director Tom Devine said. If not for Mr. Lane, [Alabama] taxpayers [might] still be paying a so-called employee not to work. The court restored rights to state government workers that Congress already reinforced for federal employees in the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. The decision should be applied to all contexts where public employees bear witness by testifying under oath.
PS: While If you don’t think of whistleblowers as affecting your life, just consider all the US product recalls that happen each day, and the career to risk an employee could undertake to report such a problem to an federal agency.