Those working with the government in the Washington DC area hear it often: if you see something, say something. You want to protect your workplace, your government and your job from financial malfeasance, safety violations, fraud or any other legal violations. The risks of running afoul of federal and state regulations can lead to consequences ranging from a higher risk of injury to a loss of your job or freedom. Everyone has and deserves the right to work in a safe, legal and ethical environment.
Reporting these issues either to internal or external channels can lead to retaliation or intimidation instead of positive action to correct the problem by your employer. Viewing you as a threat, your employer could increase pressure and discipline on your job performance, cut hours, diminish your role with the company or even demote or fire you. Every aspect of your performance is attacked with higher scrutiny and the stress and strain that can be placed upon you can lead to many personal or professional problems.
Security and protection for employees who report abuse, misconduct or fraud in the public section are granted by whistleblower protection laws. Along with this protection from adverse actions by the employer, that employee may be eligible for compensation for damages caused by those actions. Protection by whistleblower laws is for government employees at the local, state and federal level. As well, employees working for government contractors receive these same protections.
The Whistleblower Protection Act protects employees, applicants or former employees of the federal government or those working for contractors working for federal government from reprisals in the workplace when reporting waste, corruption, illegality or public endangerment. When evidence of fraud, gross mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority, violation of law or specific endangering to public health or safety is reported, these laws serve to give recourse for those facing reprisal for their actions as a whistleblower.
If a whistleblower suspects that they are the victim of unreasonable reaction from their employer, they must first present their complaint, including the precise grounds for the charge, to the US Office of Special Counsel. If a violation is found, a petition for a stay of the employment action can be filed with the Merit Service Protection Board. If their action is not satisfactory, an appeal or request for review may be filed with a MSPB administrative judge. If the board or the judge rules in the plaintiff’s favor, they are able to then file to recover lost or withheld pay, recover legal fees, seek compensatory damages and for reinstatement to their previous position.
District of Columbia Employees
The DC Whistleblower Protection Act prevents a supervisor from threatening or retaliating against any DC government employee or contractor because of protected disclosure by the employee. A protected disclosure could include evidence of mismanagement, misuse of funds, a violation of law, an abuse of authority a violation of contractual terms or endangerment of public health or safety. The affected employee will need to provide proof that their employer’s action was caused in reaction to the employee’s reporting.
An affected employee can file a cause of action within one year of the prohibited action through a civil claim in DC Superior Court. If the court rules in the favor of the employee the act allows for legal relief, back pay, compensation for damages, restoration of benefits, reinstatement, and attorney fees.
The Virginia Fraud and Abuse and Whistleblower Protection Act shields state employees reporting incidents by state agencies or contractors. These incidents could include abuse of position or substantial misuse, destruction or waste of funds or resources. Whistleblowers may not be suffer any retaliation including threats, discharge, excessive discipline or discrimination from their employers.
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Employees with a grievance with the state can initiate a hearing by filing a claim. Reward claims can be filed with the Fraud and Abuse Whistleblower Reward Fund once a grievance is heard and validated. If you as a whistleblower have suffered retaliation, want legal protection if you are planning to make a disclosure or believe you are potentially in need of protection of your rights as a whistleblower, contact The Brown Firm PLLC online or by phone immediately for a legal consultation.