Whistleblower Protection Act
The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) first came into being back in 1989 and was set up to protect federal employees who have engaged in whistle blowing activities. Any violations of the whistleblower act are investigated by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
What is a Whistleblower?
In essence a whistleblower is an employee who has news or information that has either been leaked by another employee or witnessed at first hand of any type of corrupt activities in which their employer or any person within their company is engaging, such as fraud or embezzlement, gross mismanagement or abuse of authority. Because of the nature of the circumstances it can be very difficult for somebody to report such an act. For instance, if your boss is involved in the fraud, then who do you tell? Who do you turn to? And most importantly, how does it affect your job?
The WPA lays out clear guidelines for federal employees and how they can be protected. It clearly states that under no circumstances can employers or company bosses terminate, suspend, demote, threaten or harass a whistle blower in any way. Failure to adhere to this could result in a severe fine and even jail time.
Although when it comes to federal employees the overseeing body who deals with whistleblowing activities is the Office of Special Counsel, there are certain federal employee groups who are not covered under the WPA and these are as follows:
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- Central Intelligence Agency
- National Security Agency
- General Accounting Office
- US Postal Service
- Postal Rate Commission
- Federal Bureau Of Investigations
All other federal employees who do not fall under these criteria are indeed covered.
As well as current federal employees the whistleblower act has also been extended to former employees who believe that they have knowledge that a person or persons within their former company is acting in a grossly negligent manner. This matter can then be reported to the OSC.
How Does The OSC take action?
The OSC is under obligation to treat every whistleblower's complaint very seriously and as a result will instigate a full investigation. If the OSC find that there is sufficient evidence to prove that the whistleblower has indeed been victimized in some way, then the governing body can seek to initiate corrective measures, disciplinary action, or in some cases, both. If the best way forward is corrective action, then the Office of Special Counsel can act as a negotiator between both the whistleblower and the employer to try to resolve matters. If for example the whistleblower has been suspended then the OSC will seek to reinstate the employee as the employer has violated whistleblower policy.
If the OSC fail in their bid to remedy a situation then the next step is to take disciplinary action. To do this they would have to file a claim for litigation before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). For the litigation to go ahead the Office of Special Counsel needs to prove that there are reasonable grounds that a violation of the whistleblower act has taken place, is taking place, or is about to take place. When a case gets into the hands of the Merit Systems Protection Board then they will look to take corrective action such as restoring a person's job, reversing suspensions and any other adverse actions. In addition to this they will look to claim compensation for their client (the whistleblower) for any back pay that has been lost when they were suspended or terminated, any personal damages for any trauma and stress caused by being terminated, suspended or demoted, and reimbursement of court and attorney’s fees.
Clearly there is a chain of command that the whistle blower has to go through in order to get their claim heard and the first port of call is the OSC. If they fail to act upon the claims of the whistleblower, then the employee can go over the heads of the OSC and file a claim directly with the Merit Systems Protection Board. However this is only possible in the event that they have been terminated from their employment. If this is the case, then a hearing officer will be assigned to take on the claim. If as a whistleblower you are still not happy with the way that you have been treated and the MSPB have acted in favor of the employer, then you can take the case to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
State Whistleblower Protection Act
Most states operate protection laws for whistleblowers, however depending upon which state you reside, it differs with regard to who is covered. It could mean that only state or municipal employees are protected. Alternatively, the whistleblower policy decreed within a particular state could also pertain to private employees. Certain states such as California have specific statutory protections for whistleblowers and therefore it is always best to seek the advice of a whistleblower protection attorney who understands the laws within your state.
Being a whistleblower is never an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. The Whistleblower Protection Act is put in place help protect and support people who make the right choice. It can be very difficult to make that moral decision, but be rest assured that the laws are there to protect people who do have the courage to stand up and be counted. Some people can turn a blind eye and think that the problems within their workplace aren't affecting them directly. However if they do happen to be defrauding the government, then ultimately it will have an effect on you, as the government may cut back on important services to try to recoup some of the money that they have lost. The bottom line is that in some cases you have to do what's right and put your trust in the law. The best thing to do is to get in touch with an experienced attorney who can help advise you. The Law Offices of David H. Greenberg is here to help. Call us toll free at 1-888-204-1014. We take cases from all over the United States.Whistleblower Protection Act Articles
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