Whistleblower Laws: D.C.

If you work in Washington, D.C., D.C.’s Whistleblower statute could protect you and The Erlich Law Office can help you exercise your rights. This is not limited to individuals who live in Washington. If you live in the surrounding areas of northern Virginia, including Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, Reston, and Loudoun County, you could be protected if your work is based in Washington, D.C. D.C. Code § 1-615.51 et seq., protects workers who complain about fraud, abuse or health and safety violations. It covers former and current employees, along with applicants for employment with the D.C. government. Some, but not all, of the covered agencies include: the Board of Education, the U.D.C. Board of Trustees, the D.C. Housing Authority and the Metropolitan Police Department. The D.C. Council, however, is excluded.

D.C.’s Whistleblower Law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who make protected disclosures or refuse to commit an illegal act. “Protected” disclosures are those not prohibited by law, made by an employee to a supervisor or public body, that the employee reasonably believes to show: gross mismanagement; gross misuse or waste of public resources or funds; abuse of authority in connection with a public program or contract; violation of a law, rule, or regulation; violation of a substantive term of a contract between the D.C. government and a government contractor; or a “substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety.”

The law provides a private right of action (right to sue) to an employee who was retaliated against in D.C. Superior Court. Successful claimants for D.C. Whistleblower Act violations may be awarded relief and damages, including but not limited to an injunction, reinstatement to the worker’s prior position, reinstatement of seniority rights, lost benefits, back pay and interest on back pay, compensatory damages, and reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees. The statute of limitations for filing such a complaint is three years after the violation occurs or one year after the worker learns of the violation—whichever comes first. In addition, claimants are not required to exhaust administrative or union remedies before filing suit.

To successful plead a case of a D.C. Whistleblower Act violation, a plaintiff must show that the prohibited activity (protected disclosure) was a “contributing factor” to a retaliatory act. The burden then shifts to the employer to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the alleged retaliation would have happened for legitimate, independent reasons even had the employee not engaged in protective activities.

If you have been adversely affected in your job for being a “whistleblower” or have evidence of an employer’s fraud and plan to disclose it, the Erlich Law Office can help you. For a free consultation, please call us at (703) 791-9087 or visit our web site at www.erlichlawoffice.com.