A host of advocacy groups and whistleblowers have signed a solidarity letter to support the bill HR 1557--Federal Employee Anti-discrimination Act. Congressman Elijah Cummings introduced HR 1557 on March 24, 2015. The bill, which amends the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) Act of 2002, strengthens Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) protections for Federal employees who have been discriminated against. It also provides accountability within the federal government for retaliatory acts.
The bill is now with Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on (HSGAC). According to advocacy groups the bill has stalled since the senate added a controversial disciplinary amendment that would deprive employees of their full due-process rights. The group sent a united letter to Senator Ron Johnson, Chairman of HSGAC, asking for him to move on the reform measures as agreed upon by both the House and the Senate.
"We need our lawmakers to compromise on the controversial disciplinary measure so that the 'anti-gag-order' provision and the other transforming federal workplace measures in HR 1557 can be adopted into law," says Tanya Ward Jordan, President and Founder of the Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C). "It has been 14 years since the No FEAR act passed. Retaliation in the federal government is rampant and it harms the public. Had HR 1557's anti-gag-order provision been in place during 2011, many of our veterans would not have suffered from prolonged health-care abuses. Sadly, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials put a gag-order provision in the EEO settlement agreement of Oliver Mitchell. Mitchell is a former VA Patient Scheduling Clerk and a leading whistleblower. He sought to warn the public years ago about how VA officials destroyed patient records at the West Los Angeles medical center in California.
"Managers need to be disciplined for unlawful civil rights acts; however, we must ensure full due-process rights for any one accused of a violation. For we recognize the brokenness of both the federal EEO system and federal personnel systems. We have witnessed how these systems have been used, at times, to unfairly target those in a protected category and those who speak out against workplace injustices," says Michael McCray, Esq. National Board Member Federal Employee of Women Legal Education Fund (FEWLEF).
Blacks In Government is thankful to The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C) especially Tanya Ward Jordan for their continuous work on getting the "No FEAR Act of 2002" amended in HR1557 to protect civil servants that file EEO complaints and to hold agencies and management accountable for retaliation acts in the federal sector," says Honorable Darlene H. Young, National President, Blacks In Government (BIG). "BIG thanks the House and Senate sponsors and BIG is supportive of the removal of the language in Section 9 of HR1557 so the Senate version will model the House version and the bill can be passed in this Congress. Finally BIG knows that more enforcement of the law is needed so if this Congress wants disciplinary actions to occur for those that are discriminating against federal employees they must get this bill passed.
"Congress needs to act now. Public servants who are to uphold the public-trust languish in the federal EEO-complaint system. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continues to let the American people down. The enforcement agency provides no numeric goal in days for deciding employee appeals. The EEOC recently informed the C4C the oldest pending appeal, awaiting a decision at the EEOC, is about 3,065 days old (8.4 years)." Those challenging discrimination literally die awaiting justice from the EEOC," states Paulette Taylor, C4C's Civil and Human Rights Chair. "We are hopeful that Senator Ron Johnson will execute a manager's amendment to ensure that the Senate version of HR 1557 mirrors the House version of the bill so that vital EEO reforms can pass in this session of Congress."