Whistleblower Litigation and Whistleblower Retaliation

We hear it a lot in the D.C. area: if you see something, say something. Whether it is a financial irregularity, a health and safety violation, or another violation of law, you want your workplace to be the best it can be. You want to work in a safe environment that complies with state and federal regulations so that you can feel as safe and secure in your job as possible.

Unfortunately, when reported internally, these issues sometimes give rise to retaliatory actions from employers rather than improvements. Your company might find reason to discipline, demote, or terminate you because they say you are a troublemaker. Things you never had problems with before are suddenly major issues and are causing you to be put on improvement plans, have your hours cut back, or have your contract or position terminated.

Whistleblower protection laws provide security and protection to employees who report abuse, fraud, or misconduct in the public sector. Employees are protected against retaliation by their employers for reporting misconduct in the workplace and are sometimes eligible for awards for disclosing wrongdoing. These laws typically protect federal, state, and local government employees, as well as employees of firms that contract with the government.

Federal Employees

The Whistleblower Protection Act protects federal employees, applicants, or former employees against job-related reprisals for disclosing government illegality, waste, corruption, or endangerment of public health and safety. An employee participates in a protected activity by disclosing information that shows evidence of fraud, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, a violation of a law, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

An employee must first present a complaint to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, including the precise ground for the whistleblower retaliation charge. If the Special Counsel finds a violation, she may petition the Merit Service Protection Board for a stay of the employment action. If the employee is not satisfied with the Special Counsel’s actions, he or she may file an appeal or a request a review by a MSPB administrative law judge. The Act authorizes back pay, lost wages, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and reinstatement.

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District of Columbia

The D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act forbids a supervisor from retaliating or threatening to retaliate against an employee of the D.C. government or an employee of a D.C. government contractor because of the employee’s protected disclosure. A protected disclosure could include reporting evidence of gross mismanagement, misuse of funds, abuse of authority, a violation of law, a violation of contractual terms, or danger to public health. The employee needs to show that his or her reporting was a contributing factor in the employer’s personnel action taken against the employee.

Employees may bring a cause of action within one year of the prohibited action by filing a civil claim in D.C. Superior Court. The Act authorizes injunctive relief, reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and restoration of lost benefits.

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Virginia

The Virginia Fraud and Abuse and Whistleblower Protection Act protects state employees who report instances of wrongdoing or abuse by state agencies or contractors. An instance of abuse could include substantial misuse, destruction, waste, or loss of funds. Employers may not threaten, retaliate, discharge, or discriminate against whistleblowers.

Employees can initiate a hearing with the state grievance procedure by filing a claim. Employees can also file a claim for a reward with the Fraud and Abuse Whistleblower Reward Fund.

Contact our attorneys if you have been retaliated against or believe you will need protection because you are a whistleblower or want to be protected for making a disclosure as a whistleblower.