In 2012, Congress enacted the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). The WPEA clarifies and significantly expands the rights of most federal employees under prior law.
Protected whistleblowing happens when a federal employee or applicant discovers and reports something which they reasonably believe is:
- a violation of law, rule or regulation;
- gross waste;
- gross mismanagement;
- gross waste of funds;
- abuse of authority; or
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Your agency may not take, recommend, order or threaten a personnel action against you because you made a protected whistleblowing disclosure. The following are personnel actions that are covered by the law:
- selection for a federal job;
- a promotion;
- discipline such as suspension, removal, demotion in grade or pay;
- a detail, transfer, or reassignment;
- a reinstatement;
- a restoration;
- a re-employment;
- a performance evaluation;
- a decision concerning pay, benefits, or awards, or concerning education or training if the education or training may reasonably be expected to lead to an appointment, promotion, performance evaluation, or other action described in this sub-paragraph;
- a decision to order psychiatric testing or examination; and
- any other significant change in duties, responsibilities, or working conditions.
If we can prove a connection between your whistleblowing and a personnel action, you may be entitled to relief. Relief includes restoration or reinstatement to a prior job; back pay with benefits and interest; recoupment of other losses, such as used leave and medical costs; and attorney fees. Significantly, for the first time under the new law, federal employees may now recover compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering.
An individual could have several options for pursuing a whistleblowing claim: filing a complaint with the Office of the Special Counsel; filing as a related claim in an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board; or filing a grievance under a collective bargaining agreement. Each path has its own pros and cons and once you select one option, you cannot change your mind. If you have the option to appeal directly to the MSPB, but you don’t, you may lose valuable leverage and be put at a legal disadvantage.
If you are a federal employee suffering whistleblowing retaliation and want to know your rights, contact us. Our attorneys are committed to giving you the information and tools you need to choose the right path for your case, to maximize your leverage as you try to save your job and career, and to persuasively present your case to the right federal authorities to preserve and protect your rights. During an initial consultation, we can evaluate whether you may have a whistleblowing retaliation claim. We can advise you how to pursue your claim, identify deadlines, and represent you in the appropriate procedure.