Five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters located in the Foggy Bottom area of D.C. in 1972, setting in motion a constitutional crisis that not only resulted in the unraveling of Nixon’s presidency, but whistleblowers revealed the existence of other political scandals. 69 indictments, an Articles of Impeachment, and hundreds of political ethics questions later, Congress enacted the Whistleblower Protection Act to protect federal employees who reported corruption.
The WPA prohibits retaliation against federal employees, applicants, or ex-employees for reporting acts detrimental to government policy, such as wasted spending, fraud, and abuse of power. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), formed when Congress signed the Act, handles all incoming qui tam writs and general complaints.
Whistleblowers who fear retaliatory action from government agencies, employees, or counsel of both should know their rights and what complaints are protected under WPA.
Complaints and Whistleblower Rights
If, during the course of regular work activities, you witness acts that detrimentally affect the efficient operation of our government, including fraud, gross mismanagement, waste of funds, acts which endanger public safety or health, and abuse of power, report it. An experienced whistleblower attorney can be present, and it is advised to retain one for your benefit.
Rights afforded to whistleblowers will vary based on the capacity in which they work for the Federal government. An attorney or the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman can provide further clarification as to whether your class of employment and the nature of your complaint, will be protected.
Postal employees, contractors for NASA and DOD, intelligence agencies, the National Guard and several other state and federal employee classes are not covered. Some have their own specific whistleblowing protocol, while a few lack any protections at all.
Retaliating Against Whistleblowers
WPA provides solid protections against retaliation, too. An employee who believes a federal employer has unlawfully retaliated against him or her may qualify for double back pay if fired may have the right to private action exclusive to the Qui Tam writ, and may impose fines and other putative damages upon the violating employer – even if it is the government itself.
To prove an employer had a discriminatory motive in dismissing an employee, one or several fact-based inferences must apply:
The employer had obvious hostility toward employee after conduct was reported;
Employer verbalized an intent to fire the employee without merit;
A previously lauded work performance is suddenly called into question;
Termination procedure was unlawful.
Employees who fall under protected classes of whistleblowers are almost untouchable after an event is reported that could potentially upend our government.
If You See Wrongdoing, Blow That Whistle
The laws, stipulations, and mandates that whistleblowers and violators of the False Claims Act must endure to make or break their case is exhausting. That should not deter relators from uncovering duplicitous deeds which could bring down an entire branch of government.
Whistleblowing has been around since the Civil War when the Union Army sought protections for their supplies. Reporting scandal, fraud, corruption, or other government-altering incidents is not only your duty but may get you compensated between 10% – 30% of what the Federal government recovers from your efforts.
Although the whistleblower attorneys at Rawls, Scheer, Clary, & Mingo offer this article for your education, it does not form an attorney-client relationship. If you would like to expose fraudsters and are not sure what rights you will be afforded, contact us immediately.