This bill — the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act — would strengthen penalties for federal employees who retaliate against whistleblowers, add protections for probationary period employees, and ensure federal employees have a greater knowledge of whistleblower protections. It would also prohibit an employee who has the authority to take a personnel action to access the medical records of another employee or applicant, and authorize disciplinary action against supervisors for retaliating against whistleblowers.
Federal agencies would be required to give priority to an employee transfer request if the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) grants a stay of a personnel action at the request of:
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) if OSC determines the personnel action was, or is to be taken as a result of a prohibited personnel practice — like in retaliation for whistleblowing.
The employee if they are in probationary status and seek corrective action.
Agencies would be required to:
Refer information about employee suicides to the OSC;
Train supervisors on responding to complaints alleging whistleblower protections violations;
Provide information regarding whistleblower protections to new employees during probationary periods;
Inform employees of the role of the OSC and the MSPB with regard to whistleblower protection;
Make information about such protections available on agency websites.
The Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) would be required to:
Submit a plan to prevent unauthorized access to the medical records of VA employees;
Conduct an outreach program to inform its employees of available mental health services, including telemedicine options;
Ensure protocols are in effect to address threats against VA employees providing healthcare.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) would be required to assess the reporting, staffing, accountability, and chain of command structure of VA police officers at VA medical centers. It would also be required to report on retaliation against employees on probationary status.
This bill is named after Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, a whistleblower who worked as a psychologist for the VA and reported excessive prescription practices at the VA medical center in Tomah, WI. Kirkpatrick took his own life the same day he was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle.