Federal employees who report waste, fraud and abuse have been subject to retaliation and retribution, with some workers even forced to leave their jobs. The Washington Post recently reported on bipartisan support for strengthening protections for whistleblowers.
Whistleblowers who come forward to report fraud or abuse that cost the government money are entitled to protections under the law. This is true both of federal workers who report wrongdoing they observe in their official capacity and of workers in the private sector who identify fraud and abuse involving government funds. Unfortunately, a whistleblower attorney in Texas knows sometimes employers do not always follow laws designed to protect whistleblowers. When this occurs, it is important for the person who has reported the fraud to get legal advice to protect his interests.
Bipartisan Support for Protecting Whistleblowers
In 2012, Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. This law was passed after more than a decade of lobbying efforts by employee advocates who wanted to ensure people could come forward without risking their jobs. Unfortunately, even the enhanced protections are still not as strong as they should be.
One of the major problems is that there is a loophole for workers who are employed by the government in "sensitive jobs." The government is essentially given "uncontrolled power," to designate any job that it wants as a sensitive job. This problem arose because a federal appeals court overturned a Merit Systems Protection Board decision and gave the government virtually unfettered authority to decide who is classified as sensitive. This ruling was described as "the most significant threat to the civil service merit system in our lifetime."
Once a worker is classified as sensitive, the employee of the government is not able to take advantage of certain protections, like appealing to the Merit Systems Protection Board when personnel actions are taken against him.
The government has been very broad in defining positions as "sensitive jobs." For example, the Washington Post reports a civilian grocery inventory clerk who was working on an air force base. He was demoted and was not able to appeal because his job was classified as "sensitive." His job consisted of keeping the shelves of the base store stocked, and he had no access to classified information.
A Transportation Security Administration Employee also tried to go through official channels before telling the media about an unclassified decision to cancel air marshal assignments on long-distance flights if an overnight stay was required. He was fired for breaching national security and had no options for appealing the retaliation.
Lawmakers have warned that the ruling giving the government power to define sensitive jobs could virtually wipe out the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. Congress is troubled by this, and bipartisan legislation has been written to overturn the court ruling. Lawmakers are working to draft legislation to strengthen whistleblower protections, which could be passed as early as the lame duck session of congress after the November elections.
Hopefully, the legislation will be passed. Whistleblowers of all types, whether in the federal government or the private sector, deserve protection.
Contact a Houston, TX whistleblower attorney if you need legal help. Call Brewer & Prichard P.C. today at 800-445-8710 to schedule a consultation.