For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 8, 2015
National Weather Service Employees Tethered by Illegal Gag Orders
Special Counsel Asked to Reverse Recent Raft of Blanket Nondisclosure Policies
Generated News Articles
Philadelphia Inquirer, October 9, 2015: Weather Service Union Blasts "Gag Orders"
Government Executive, October 9, 2015: Weather Service Staffers Protest "Gag Orders" on Workforce Planning
(October 8, 2015) Washington, DC — National Weather Service employees face growing restrictions on their ability to disclose information about the inner workings of their agency, according to a complaint filed today by the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). They contend these gag orders are illegal and are pressing U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner to lift these nondisclosure policies and take action against responsible officials.
A key provision of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 curbed the use of blanket nondisclosure policies or agreements, otherwise known as “gag orders,” implemented by federal agencies. The act lays out specific exceptions which must be included as a part of any such confidentiality directive.
“The National Weather Service knows it’s unethical for union representatives to keep critical information from the employees they represent. By the very nature of a union, we are bound to communicate with our members and include their input on decisions affecting their jobs,” said NWSEO Executive Vice President Bill Hopkins. “As a taxpayer, I find it highly disturbing that a government agency continues to push gag orders to hide how they operate. This is the work of the American government, owned by the American public, and should be open to the American public.”
The complaint cites three gag orders issued in recent weeks by the National Weather Service and its parent agencies, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce. These orders forbid disclosure of information arising out of:
“The National Weather Service is about the last place where national security-style secrecy rules need to be enforced,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the broad scope of the gag orders put much of what goes on inside the agency under wraps. “Everyone is free to talk about the weather except for the people working inside the National Weather Service. Go figure.”
Read the complaint
View Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act anti-gag language
See Organization Workforce Analysis nondisclosure agreement
Learn about grievance gag policy
Examine Collective Bargaining confidentiality provision
The Most Dire Forecast Ever Issued Slate - August 28, 2015
From the article:
"Ten years ago this morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ricks faced a dilemma. As the forecast coordinator that day for the Slidell, Louisiana, office—which has responsibility for New Orleans—he needed to find a way to convey the urgency and seriousness of the situation his region would face the next day as Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Here is what he came up with:" (More)
June 24, 2015: NBC 5 Dallas/Fort Worth: Reporter Scott Friedman investigates NWS Staffing Levels
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