When the US government hires federal contractors for projects, these contractors, in turn, hire workers to do the work. As part of this arrangement, the government requires these contractors to inform their workers about a specific rule. Being on the inside, these workers are in a position to notice and report any misconduct related to the government project.
The best part? These brave individuals won’t face any negative consequences from their employers for speaking up.
The whistleblower’s shield
The Department of Justice (DOJ) understands that whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing may face retaliation from their employers. In response, the DOJ brought protection, FAR clause 52.203-17, also known as the Contractor Employee Whistleblower Rights. The government requires all federal contractors to incorporate this clause into their written contracts and inform workers. Such clauses help workers learn about their rights as whistleblowers, such as the ability to report any misuse of funds, fraud or other misconduct related to the government contract without fearing unfair treatment or losing their job.
Protection from retaliation
If workers decide to use the clause due to specific situations, they can report the issue to a superior, an ethics hotline or a government agency. Once they receive the report, the clause protects the reporter from retaliation. This means the employer can’t unfairly treat the worker, like firing, demoting or cutting their pay because of the report. If the employer does try to retaliate, they would violate the contract with the government and could face legal consequences. The government could end the contract or sue for violations of whistleblower rights.
Some workers may feel unable to report issues or blow the whistle safely. To correct this, the DOJ urged various state agencies to incorporate these clauses into their contracts retroactively. This step boosts contractors’ transparency and accountability, showing the US’s high regard for whistleblowers.