The Law Firm of Piacentile, Stefanowski & Malherbe LLP

Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Act’s Amendment in 2012

Since 1989, the Whistleblower Protection Act has been in place to protect federal employees from retaliation when they report misconduct. However, the Act was not always as strong as it is now. In 2012, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act was passed to improve protections for whistleblowers. This article will discuss the history of the Whistleblower Protection Act and how it was strengthened in 2012. We will also explore what types of misconduct federal employees are protected from reporting.

The Whistleblower Protection Act was passed in 1989 in response to a number of high-profile retaliation cases against federal employees. The Act prohibits retaliation against an employee for disclosing information that the employee reasonably believes evidences misconduct, waste, fraud, or abuse. The Act also protects employees who cooperate with investigations into such misconduct. Prior to the 2012 amendments, the Act only protected disclosures made to a supervisor or a designated agency official.

The 2012 amendments to the Whistleblower Protection Act were passed in response to a number of court decisions that had limited the protections afforded to federal employees. The amendments clarified that an employee does not need to prove that the disclosure was made in order to receive protection from retaliation. The amendments also broadened the types of disclosures that are protected, and clarified that employees are protected from retaliation for refusing to participate in activities that would result in misconduct.

Federal employees who wish to report misconduct have a number of options available to them. Employees can report misconduct to their supervisor, a designated agency official, or an inspector general. In addition, employees can file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel or the Merit Systems Protection Board.

If you are a federal employee and you have witnessed misconduct, it is important to know that you have protections in place. The Whistleblower Protection Act and the 2012 amendments offer strong protections for whistleblowers, and there are a number of avenues available for reporting misconduct. If you have witnessed misconduct, do not hesitate to come forward and report it. Your actions could make a difference. It is best to review your options with legal counsel.

Federal whistleblowers face a unique array of obstacles and risks when they come forward with information about waste, fraud, or abuse. Unlike private sector employees, federal whistleblowers also receive First Amendment Protections. First Amendment protections for federal employees were first codified in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of 1989 strengthened these protections and created additional ones. The WPA covers most executive branch employees, including those working for the military, intelligence agencies, and the Postal Service. The WPA does not cover congressional employees or staff working for the president.

Federal whistleblowers are protected from retaliation in a number of ways. They cannot be demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or fired because they have disclosed information that they reasonably believe evidences a violation of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. Whistleblowers can also not be denied a promotion or given a less favorable performance evaluation because they have blown the whistle.

The Whistleblower Protection Act has been successful in deterring waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government. It has also been successful in protecting the rights of federal employees who come forward to report these problems. If you are a federal employee and you have witnessed waste, fraud, or abuse, you should contact an experienced whistleblower attorney to discuss your rights and options under the Whistleblower Protection Act.