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What Is the Whistleblower Act and Who Does It Protect?

What Is the Whistleblower Act

What Is the Whistleblower ActWhat is the Whistleblower Act? The law was enacted in 1989.  The intent to protect anyone working for the federal government who decides to report government agency misconduct.

The Whistleblower Act of 1989 states that only certain offices and judges have the right to hear cases related to whistleblowing. The federal Office of Special Counsel investigates the claims brought under this Act. This counsel is a dedicated legal branch that only reviews federal whistleblowing cases and nothing else.

The Merit System Protection Board is the primary forum in which claims are heard and adjudicated.  Administrative law judges make decisions for these claims. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is the authority that reviews any appeals from the Merit System Protection Board.  However, the appeals tend to be few and far between.

Recent Changes Redefine the Whistleblower Act

The 1989 Act addressed any disclosure of wrongdoing, particularly material or informational, that the reporting party felt was a violation of not just law but an act of gross resource waste, fraud, inefficiency or a threat to the public. This broad definition covered a wide scope of issues related to whistleblowing and fraud.

Early on, many cases were dismissed or deemed unprotected by the Act in court application of the Law. This triggered eventual revisions to broaden the scope of protection. The 1989 Act was augmented by additional law under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. This revision added a number of protections for employees, who are involved in the military and intelligence community, and fear retaliation due to their agency’s unique work that tends to be secret, confidential, and restricted. However, this new Act was time-limited through 2014.

Whistleblower Act Protections

In application, a claimant wanting to pursue a whistleblower protection lawsuit first needs to have been an employee of the federal Executive Branch during the time when the incident occurred. There must have been some kind of reporting by the person of perceived wrongdoing, and there needs to be an act of retaliation against the employee due to the reporting. In other words, a person who reported a problem and never experienced retaliation cannot win a claim for injury when one did not occur.

It’s also important to understand, there are other statutory provisions that allow for whistleblower recovery. The Federal False Claims Act allows the ability to sue and recover damages for the government in the case that the government doesn’t want to pursue the claim itself. OSHA also applies whistleblower protections under labor laws, and states have their own statutes for additional rights and recoveries.

If you are wading through information to answer your question “What is the Whistleblower Act?” you don’t have to process through it all alone. Contact our team at Bothwell Law Group to get additional information today.