As Congress and the White House attempt to decide on how to avert the fiscal cliff, money is more of a hot-button issue in Washington than it has been in some time. Perhaps inspired by the idea that the government must crack down on waste from within, President Obama signed legislation late last month that grants broader protection to federal employee whistleblowers who aid in exposing waste, fraud and abuse within the government sector.
In typical whistleblower claims, employees allege that because they have attempted to enforce their legal rights or reported illegal activity, they have suffered retaliation by their employers. The new legislation broadens the ability of federal workers to seek protection under the law if they need to file a whistleblower claim.
In the past, several loopholes prohibited a significant number of whistleblowers from receiving protection. In particular, only those who were the first to come forward and report misconduct were protected. Obviously this was a significant risk for employees to take, as they could not be sure that they were the first in line.
In addition, the new law will not only expand protections but will also make it easier for courts to hold retaliatory supervisors accountable for their behavior. It does so by modifying the required burden of proof in cases involving retaliatory employers. It also importantly abolishes the standard that should whistleblowers fail to be successful in their cases, they will automatically be saddled with the attorney's fees of the government managers they seek to challenge.
Hopefully, these expanded protections will allow more whistleblowers to expose fraud and waste without fear of retribution.
Source: Washington Post, "President signs whistle-blower bill to protect federal workers who expose fraud, waste," Nov. 27, 2012