Frequently Asked Questions About Whistleblower Protections

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The Act prohibits federal employees from taking or threatening to take a personnel action against an employee because of their protected disclosures.  A protected disclosure is information that you reasonably believe to be evidence of a violation of law, rule or regulation or gross waste of government funds, gross mismanagement, an abuse of authority or a substantial and specific threat to public health or safety.  Personnel actions are things such as disciplinary actions, denials of promotion, negative performance appraisals, a detail or reassignment and termination.

NOTE: Employees of intelligence agencies are not covered by the Act.

You must prove that you made a protected disclosure and that as a result of that protected disclosure an agency official took an adverse action against you. Usually you will need to show that the agency official who took the adverse action against you had knowledge of the protected disclosure. You must also show a connection or nexus between the protected disclosure and the personnel action taken against you.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) will investigate your claim. If they believe it has merit, OSC will request that the agency take corrective action or request that the Merit Systems Protection Board order corrective action. If OSC determines that you do not have a claim, terminates their investigation without action, you may then file what is known as an Individual Right of Action (IRA) appeal with the MSPB. You have 65 days from the date you are notified by OSC that they are closing your claim to file with MSPB. Alternatively, if OSC fails to take any action on your complaint within 120 days after the filing of your complaint, you may also file an IRA appeal with the MSPB.  These time frames are strictly enforced. Once at the MSPB, the normal Board processing procedures apply.

Violations of the Act can result in disciplinary action taken against federal officials who have engaged in of whistleblower reprisal.  Employees subjected to reprisal for making protected disclosures can recover back pay, reversal of any personnel actions taken against the employee, consequential damages (i.e. medical expenses, travel) and attorney fees.  Compensatory damages are not available.

If you are a federal employee facing wrongful termination, demotion, or other adverse action as a result of your disclosures, contact Tully Rinckey to see how our experienced federal employment and whistleblower attorneys may assist you.

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