Whistleblowing and “Normally Assigned Duties”

When does a federal employee become a whistleblower and when is an employee performing normal job duties? A federal court considers a recent case.

A recent “non-precedential” Federal Circuit decision underscores that activity whch is part of normally assigned duties will not qualify as whistleblowing.

In Blakemore v. Department of the Navy (C.A.F.C. No. 04-3444, 10/20/05), an employee at Quantico’s Marine Corps Community Services Division (MCCS) unsuccessfully argued that MSPB should have taken jurisdiction of her case since she was a protected whistleblower.

The outcome at the Board had been a finding that Blakemore had failed to prove “her actions were not part of her normally assigned duties;” therefore the Board did not have jurisdiction and her case was dismissed. (Opinion p. 1).

The court points out that all Blakemore did to establish that she was a protected whistleblower was to make a “bare assertion” that her activity was not part of her normal job duties. This was not enough to demonstrate that she had made a protected disclosure.

The court decision lacks details as to Ms. Blakemore’s appeal to the Board. Instead the court limits its findings to the whistleblowing activity. As it turns out one of her major job duties involved participating in investigations. Also the court points out that her Commanding General assigned Blakemore to investigate the MCCS division.

Like the MSPB, the court concluded that “the MCCS report was not outside her normal employment requirements.” Therefore the court affirms the MSPB. (p. 3)

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.