Topic of the Week Whistleblowing - Federal Employees
- What is whistleblowing?
- As a federal employee whistleblower, how does the law protect me?
- How do I "blow the whistle?"
What is whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is a common term that refers to an employee or contractor alerting authorities that their employer is engaged in some type of illegal or prohibited activity. Activities associated with whistleblowing often include:
- A violation of law, rule, or regulation,
- Gross mismanagement,
- A gross waste of funds
- An abuse of authority, or
- A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Before blowing the whistle, you should have a reasonable belief that your disclosure is accurate. You should never proceed with a complaint based merely on suspicion or office gossip. It is important to check your facts carefully before initiating a complaint process.
It is not easy to go against management by reporting something you believe is wrong to those who hopefully can do something about it. It is however, good to know that if you do, the law usually provides protection for you - even if it turns out your concerns were unfounded.
As a federal employee whistleblower, how does the law protect me?
When an agency official takes, threatens to take, or fails to take a negative personnel action against you because of your whistleblowing activity, that is an illegal form of retaliation or reprisal. Congress was concerned enough about protecting those who blow the whistle on abuse in the government that it passed the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (WPA) , which prohibits retaliation against a whistleblower. More recently, Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA) which extended the protections of whistleblowing to TSA employees, strengthened the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and closed some of the court created loopholes from the WPA.
The WPA applies only when a personnel action is taken against you at least in part because of your protected disclosure. As long as the protected disclosure was "a contributing factor" in the personnel action taken against you, the retaliation need not be the sole or major motivation for the action.
If you work for the Postal Service or one of the other agencies which are not specifically covered by prohibited personnel practices law or the Whistleblower Protection Act or the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, you should consult with an attorney, union representative, or labor relations expert to learn more about bringing your case.
How do I "blow the whistle?"
There are three common ways for federal employees to blow the whistle:
- Report to a supervisor
- Contact the Inspector General - IG
- Contact the Office of Special Counsel
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