The ability of federal government workers to report any malfeasance they see is the integral part of the Whistleblower Protection Act. If workers are afraid of retaliation, then they won’t help the government perform effectively.
The initial foray was made in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, but the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 put teeth into the measure.
Things a whistleblower can report
A federal employee, former federal employee or federal job applicant can make a protected disclosure if they reasonably believe they saw:
- A violation of a federal law, rule or regulation
- A waste of funds
- An abuse of authority
- Danger to public safety
The federal employee doesn’t have to prove that the actions were wrong, only that a reasonable person in their shoes would determine that the actions were wrong.
Unless they meet these criteria, the federal employee’s differences or disagreements with other employees or policies are not protected.
The whistleblower can report the problem to anyone – there is no need to follow the chain of command.
Being treated unfairly?
If you’ve made a whistleblower report and you believe you are being treated unfairly, the Office of the Special Counsel will take up your case and, if they believe there was retaliation, report their findings to the agency for corrective action. To prove retaliation, you must show:
- You disclosed the action
- The person who threatened you knew of the action, and
- Your action was a contributing factor in the actions against you
If you can show that retaliation did occur, you could win back pay and benefits, attorney’s fees and a clean record while the official who retaliated could face demotion, suspension or fines.
If you are a whistleblower who has been treated unfairly, you should get advice from a qualified, experienced attorney to make sure you are protected.