Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > Public Health Service Employees Not Subject to Whistleblower Protections

Public Health Service Employees Not Subject to Whistleblower Protections

Posted 15 March 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) counts among its ranks hundreds of Public Health Service (PHS) employees-members of a uniformed service charged with upholding and promoting public health and advancing public health science.

While these employees are easily recognizable as a result of their military service uniforms, the federal government does not recognize a basic protection for these employees: whistleblowing protections.

A Washington Post report details how members of the PHS Commissioned Corps are "excluded from whistleblower protections available to federal civilians" because they are part of the uniformed service.

The report details the experience of one FDA employee, Paul Hardy, a PHS biomedical engineer assigned to FDA.

"After he blew the whistle on safety problems with a breast cancer detection device by contacting members of Congress, among others, the FDA launched a criminal investigation of him for releasing unauthorized information and the PHS fired him," wrote The Washington Post.

Despite intervention by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC)-the agency tasked with protecting federal whistleblowers-Hardy was found to be ineligible for the protections afforded under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

The loophole in protections is drawing scrutiny and derision from watchdog groups and government employees alike.

"This loophole doesn't make any sense, said Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner of OSC. "It undermines public health and safety and should be addressed through legislation."

Read more:

Washington Post - For Public Health Service officers, no protection for whistleblowing

Washington Post - White House making whistleblower advocates nervous

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