Internal memo will expose whistleblowers to retaliation and is potentially illegal and unconstitutional
WASHINGTON – After obtaining an internal memo sent from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) instructing employees to inform the agency before communicating independently with Congress, congressional leaders sent a letter to Secretary Tom Price criticizing the memo as potentially illegal and unconstitutional.
The letter, sent by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), reiterates the need for whistleblower protections and asks the Secretary to issue guidance clarifying that employees have the right to communicate “directly and independently with Congress.”
The letter states:
“The attached memorandum contains no exception whatsoever for lawful, protected communications with Congress. In its current form, employees are likely to interpret it as a prohibition, and will not necessarily understand their rights.”
“These provisions are significant because they ensure that attention can be brought to problems in the Executive Branch that need to be fixed. Protecting whistleblowers who courageously speak out is not a partisan issue – it is critical to the functioning of our government.”
“In order to correct this potential violation of federal law, we request that as soon as possible you issue specific written guidance to all agency employees making them aware of their right to communicate directly and independently with Congress. Such guidance should inform employees of the whistleblower protections that apply, and make clear that the agency will not retaliate against any employee who chooses to exercise these rights. Once you have issued this guidance, please provide the Committees with a copy.”