What Is The Whislteblower Protection Act?

Whistleblowers play an important role in helping the government to uncover fraud. Lawmakers have long recognized the crucial nature of the service that whistleblowers provide. As a result, laws have been enacted at both the state and federal levels to protect whistleblowers. The Whistleblower Protection Act is a law that protects federal workers who disclose misconduct from retaliation. Swartz Swidler advocates for federal whistleblowers who have been retaliated against for reporting misconduct.

The Whistleblower Protection Act

Congress recognized the need to protect whistleblowers and passed the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989. The purpose of the act was to protect federal employees and to prevent retaliation. Under the law, reporting procedures were clarified. The Office of Special Counsel was also separated from the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the OSC was empowered to represent whistleblowers in retaliation cases.

Protection under the Whistleblower Protection Act

The Whistleblower Protection Act applies to current and former federal employees as well as federal applicants. Employees who work for federal contractors, military members, U.S. Postal employees are not covered by the law, however. The OSC also does not represent workers who are employed by the intelligence agencies. Finally, the OSC is not able to handle cases that are required to be kept secret by executive order.

How disclosures of wrongdoing are made

Federal employees who are covered under the act are able to make direct reports of misconduct to the OSC of the following types:

  • Gross mismanagement or waste of funds
  • Violations of regulations, rules or laws
  • Abuses of authority
  • Actions which pose a substantial danger to public safety or health

The OSC’s role is not to investigate whistleblower claims. Instead, the agency reviews disclosures that it receives. If it finds that the allegations of wrongdoing are substantially likely to have happened, the disclosures will be referred to the head of the agency that is responsible for investigating the claim. In order to demonstrate that the wrongdoing was substantially likely, you must offer first-hand, reliable knowledge of the violations. You are not able to make an anonymous disclosure, but you can ask that your identity is kept confidential.

Filing whistleblower retaliation claims

If you believe that you have been retaliated against for making a whistleblower disclosure, you are able to report the retaliation against you to the OSC. The agency will then investigate what happened. If the OSC believes that you were retaliated against, it will report its findings to the appropriate agency.

Proving retaliation requires that you are able to show:

  • You made a disclosure of misconduct;
  • You were retaliated against by an official who knew about your disclosure; and
  • Your disclosure contributed to the retaliation.

If your retaliation claim is successful, you may receive benefits and back pay and your attorney’s fees and costs. Any officials who are found to have engaged in retaliation may be disciplined.

Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act

In 2012, Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. This law was designed to strengthen the protections afforded under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Contact an attorney

Reporting waste, abuse or fraud by a government agency is an important decision. While there are protections available, it is important for you to understand whether or not they will apply to you. Contact the experienced qui tam attorneys at Swartz Swidler to learn more about your claim.