Protecting Government Whistleblowers
The Public Employee Political Freedom Act or PEPFA is currently under assault in the General Assembly. PEPFA is a whistleblower law that protects the right of a state, county, or city employee to speak to his or her elected representatives about concerns they have in the workplace without fear of retaliation. PEPFA has been used to protect countless public servants who have found fraud and misuse of tax payer funds as well as public employees who have concerns that government is not serving its citizens properly.
Representative Janet Bolling (R-Tullahoma) is pushing legislation (HB1087/SB569) that would remove city and county governments from coverage by this law. Effectively, this would leave thousands of workers unprotected. Police officers, firefighters, sheriff deputies, teachers, and all other city and county employees would have no protection from retaliation if they blow the whistle on government waste, fraud, or abuse. This legislation also attempts to limit the damages that these employees can recover against the government when they face retaliation.
PEPFA is critical to promoting good government. The First Amendment, which covers public employees’ free speech rights under some instances, does not protect a public employee’s speech about duties that fall within his or her job responsibilities under the Supreme Court's decision in Ceballos v. Garcetti. Further, Tennessee’s other whistleblower law, the Tennessee Public Protection Act (TPPA), only protects an employee’s right to speak out against an employer’s actions that affect the health, safety, and well-being of the citizens of Tennessee. Thus, the TPPA would likely not protect a public employee who complains about the misuse of taxpayer money, fraud, or a list of other issues.
Please contact your state representative and senator and ask them to oppose the efforts to remove protections for public servants who insist on good and clean government. Oppose HB1087/SB569!
Written by Bryce Ashby