Have you ever thought of the whistleblower protection program as being like the Witness Protection Program? You’ve seen it in the movies: A guy goes to court and spills the beans on the big mob boss. Uncle Sam sets the witness up with a new life. The result is a name change, move across the country, and a whole new identity. The Witness Protection Program is a real thing, and it is quite necessary. The whistleblower protection program is not like Witness Protection — no one disappears. Rather, it makes sure your job is still yours, whether your employer likes it or not.
How Does the Whistleblower Protection Program Work?
The whistleblower protection program protects federal employees who report fraudulent activity within the government agency that employs them. Whistleblower laws have been on the books since the Civil War, but it was only in 1989 that Congress took steps to make sure people don’t need to worry about losing their jobs because they did the right thing.
The whistleblower protection plan is part of the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act, passed during Civil War times, stopped those who were profiting from the war by cheating the government. The initial Act covered governmental supplies, such as horses, guns, and ammunition. Eventually, the Act fell by the wayside, remaining on the books but rarely used.
In 1989, Congress added the WPA (Whistleblower Protection Act) to the previous law. Congress did this as a way to encourage fraud reporting. The WPA protects federal workers from retaliatory actions from their employers; they cannot suffer retaliation for reporting fraudulent activity on the part of their employers.
There are over 20 different statutes involved in the complete Whistleblower Protection Act. These laws are part of the Occupational Safety and Health Association, or OSHA. The OSHA laws protect workers in a wide variety of industries, including:
● Commercial motor carrier
● Consumer product
● Financial reform
● Food safety
● Health insurance reform
● Motor vehicle safety
● Public transportation agency
● Securities laws
Has the Whistleblower Protection Act Always Been Part of False Claims?
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 brought new protections for federal whistleblowers. The Act also included other legal action. Until 1989, the Act did not include provisions to protect the person who brought forth the fraud charges from retaliation.
When Congress revisited the law, they included the Whistleblower Protection Act. Federal employees who step up and bring fraud to light cannot wind up on the unemployment line because they angered employers by blowing the whistle.
The WPA protects federal employees who disclose information about specific things. These items include wasting money, mismanagement, abuse of authority, or a risk to public health and safety. The act protects against personnel action taken against you as a result of your disclosure. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has jurisdiction over federal whistleblower retaliation. The WPA addresses federal workers reporting on fraudulent activities within federal agencies. This provision sets the WPA apart from Qui Tam suits covering whistleblowing in other areas.
In 2012, Congress created another action giving more protection to federal employees. It also closed some loopholes the court found in the WPA of 1989. The 2012 legislation is the most recent legislation to focus on whistleblowing.
What Protection Does the Whistleblower Protection Program Offer?
A whistleblower can face a variety of personnel actions as a result of making a claim against a government agency. According to the Whistleblower Protection Act, the following list of actions cannot happen as a result of filing a complaint:
● Appointments to positions
● Any disciplinary action or adverse action
● Reassignment or transfer
● A poor performance evaluation
● Any decision about pay, benefits or awards. (This includes decisions about training or education, if that training or education could lead to an appointment, transfer, promotion or other benefits.)
● Any psychiatric testing or exam
● A non-disclosure agreement that does not notify the employee that the agreement does not override whistleblower rights and protections.
● Any significant change in working conditions, responsibilities or duties
If you believe you have information that falls under the whistleblower protection program, you need guidance from an attorney who knows the specifics of whistleblower law. To make sure you have everything in order and have complete protection, you need to work with a qualified legal team that is familiar with the whistleblower protection program and all areas it covers. Contact the skilled whistleblower protection program attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.