Abramson Labor Group – Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by laws dating back to the 1970s. The Office of Special Counsel investigates complaints from federal whistleblowers. OSHA takes whistleblower complaints about some matters like violations of environmental laws, aviation practices, commercial trucking regulations, and workplace safety violations. The Merit Systems Protection Board rules on whistleblower complaints. Appeals are heard by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
They first received some protection with 1978’s Civil Service Reform Act. This established some protection from retaliation if a federal employee disclosed any wrongdoing within a government agency. On April 10, 1989, the House and Senate signed the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 into law. The key goals of this law were to protect government and private-sector employers who make the public aware of abuse, fraud, and other wasteful or illegal acts committed by members of the government.
Whistleblowers holding classified information who need to report matters gained protection from the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998. The No Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation (FEAR) Act of 2002 added protections. The No FEAR Act holds management accountable for violations of protective anti-discrimination laws.
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that these employees are not protected by the First Amendment against employer retaliation if they’re performing part of their job when they speak out. The All Circuit Review Extension Act of 2014 and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 allow whistleblowers to ask for a judicial review of decisions made by the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Office of Personnel Management.
What Whistleblower Laws Cover
Whistleblower laws protect government workers or contractors/subcontractors who report cases of crimes, fraud, or other wrongdoings by a government agency or official to the Office of Special Counsel. They can report on unethical or illegal practices by a company, too. People have the right to bring attention to these matters. If they’re fired, penalized, or discriminated against, it’s a violation of whistleblower laws. Here are examples of whistleblowing.
- Renee Dufault – She found lye was being used in the manufacturing process of high fructose corn syrup and resulting in mercury being found in foods containing that corn syrup. She reported it to the FDA who refused to let her access federal data in order to publish her research.
- W. Mark Felt – In one of the best-known cases of whistleblowers, Felt (aka Deep Throat) was the Associate Director of the FBI. He anonymously leaked information about the ties between the Watergate scandal, a break-in at the Democratic National Convention, and President Richard Nixon. Dozens of Nixon’s top officials ended up being tied to Watergate.
- Ronald J. Goldstein – He was working for a construction company building two nuclear power plants when he reported safety issues. He was fired. Unfortunately, as a private-sector worker, the laws at the time did not offer him protection as a whistleblower, but his case did lead to the laws being changed.
- Justin Hopson – The rookie NJ trooper saw his training offer making a false report and unlawful arrest and refused to back his training officer. This resulted in harassment and hazing and the discovery of the “Lords of Discipline, “ a group of state police officers who made it their goal to keep other officers in line. He won a settlement against New Jersey for harassment, assault, and vandalism.
- Stefan Kruszewski – After discovering mentally ill children were being chemically and physically restrained at Southwood Psychiatric Hospital, Kruszewski reported his findings and was told to stay silent. He refused so the State of Pennsylvania fired him. He won lawsuits against the state and the psychiatric hospital.
- Robert MacLean – The U.S. Federal Air Marshal brought the TSA’s plan to save money on overnight lodgings by removing air marshals from long-distance flights. His report led to the TSA dropping the plan before it was enacted.
There are dozens and dozens of examples of whistleblowing. Financial fraud, cutting corners on construction to save money, and the discovery of Ponzi schemes have led to whistleblowing complaints. Insider trading, knowingly hiding side effects of pharmaceuticals from the public, and illegal monitoring of phone calls are others.
Filing a Complaint
Laws for whistleblowing do vary from one state to the next. Knowing how to file your whistleblowing complaint is important. The outcome of the case can depend on careful reporting. Talk to an expert in whistleblowing law first.
Abramson Law Group is on your side. You’re protected by whistleblower laws so don’t stand for mistreatment or wrongful termination. Our consultations are free, and you don’t pay unless we win. Email or call us to file a whistleblower complaint with an experienced whistleblower attorney.