While the Trump administration has made it very clear that the government will not be retaliated against whistleblowers, it is incredibly important to note that the legislation does not offer specific protection for this group. While the government will be responsible for any consequences that are associated with a whistleblower’s actions, a whistleblower does not need to have firsthand knowledge of a violation of the law to obtain protection under the law.
Whistleblowers should not be afraid to share confidential information with their employer, as long as they follow the laws in place to protect the source. However, whistleblowers should be aware that they may have to share information with their employer in order to follow up on a tip. Also, whistleblowers must protect their identity, as their whistleblower may be identified by co-workers. The federal government has a number of protections for whistleblowers, but the specifics of these laws vary.
The legislation also adds to the existing laws regarding whistleblower protection. For example, the MSPB is a quasi-judicial body that has the authority to enforce prohibited personnel actions and may reimburse legal fees in some instances. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission takes up issues of discrimination. These include gender, race, and disability discrimination. Lastly, whistleblowers must indicate the possibility of financial compensation as part of their action.
While federal employees are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, whistleblowers should be aware that federal laws and regulations also protect employees who report waste, corruption, or illegal behavior. Federal whistleblower complaints may be investigated by the Office of Special Counsel. This independent executive agency has the authority to enforce decisions and impose corrective and disciplinary action. In some cases, the MSPB will even order reinstatement of suspended workers or revocation of worker dispatch contracts.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (D-F-W-R-CA), which created an anti-retaliation right for whistleblowers, provides new protections for whistleblowers. Depending on the circumstances, a whistleblower may seek double back pay, reinstatement, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and litigation costs. This Act is an international and regional framework to protect whistleblowers.
The UNCAC Coalition’s parallel reports are crucial tools in the advocacy and passage of new whistleblower laws. The advocacy work of the UNCAC national chapters has played a key role in the passage of new whistleblower protection laws in Australia, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, and Kenya. In addition to ensuring whistleblowers have the right legal protection, these laws also foster greater transparency and accountability in government agencies and companies.