Whistleblower Protection for Federal Employees

As a federal employee, you are well within your rights to speak up when you witness a gross misuse of taxpayer funds, abuse of authority, discrimination or harassment, or any other form of illegal or improper conduct on the job. It is important that these types of issues be dealt with appropriately, and federal employees are often in the best position to say something so that wasteful and harmful practices can be put to an end.

As a “whistleblower,” you are also protected under federal law. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 applies to current and former federal employees and applicants for federal employment, and it prohibits federal agencies from taking adverse personnel action based upon someone’s status as a whistleblower. It also gives whistleblowers an Individual Right of Action (IRA), which means that they can file claims for back pay, reinstatement, and other remedies directly with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) when they experience job-related retaliation.

Are you a whistleblower? Do you have information that you want to disclose but also have concerns about protecting your federal employment? Have you already experienced retaliation at work as a result of blowing the whistle? If so, the attorneys at Melville Johnson, P.C. can help. We have decades of experience representing federal employees in retaliation cases and other MSPB appeals, and we can make sure your rights as a whistleblower are protected.

“I really appreciate how much [your firm] cared about my case. From the very beginning of the process, [your attorneys and staff] were friendly and very informative. We won the case, and [your firm] were even helpful afterward, answering any questions or concerns. Thank you . . . I will definitely pass your good work along to others in need” – Jim R., Federal Employee

Federal Employee Whistleblower FAQs

Q: What constitutes retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act?

The definition of “retaliation” under the Whistleblower Protection Act is broad. While having your position terminated is certainly one form of retaliation, it is by no means the only form that can entitle you to file an MSPB appeal. Other possible examples of retaliation include:

  • Being transferred to a less-desirable or ill-suited position
  • Changing work hours or otherwise making it more difficult to manage work and family obligations
  • Discrimination, harassment, or abusive treatment
  • Increased scrutiny at work
  • Unsubstantiated reprimands or poor performance evaluations
  • Threatening criminal investigation or prosecution
  • Threatening any other form of retaliatory action

Q: What if I am not certain that a violation or other improper practice has occurred?

Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, you do not need to be certain that a violation or other improper practice has occurred. As stated by the MSPB, the law protects, “disclosing information that you reasonably believe is evidence of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.”

However, before you make an allegation that may or may not be accurate, it is important that you speak with an attorney. At Melville Johnson, P.C., we can help you make informed decisions about blowing the whistle on your federal employer or another agency.

Q: What else is required to receive protection as a whistleblower?

In addition to ensuring that you have a reasonable basis to support your allegations, in order to receive protection as a whistleblower, you must also make your disclosure to an appropriate authority. Appropriate authorities include Special Counsel, Inspectors General, other designated agency employees, and (in certain circumstances) congressional committees and other bodies provided that the disclosure is not illegal and does not compromise national defense or foreign affairs.

Q: Can all federal employees file Individual Right of Action (IRA) claims with the MSPB?

Most, but not all, federal employees have the right to file an IRA. Eligible employees include:

  • Competitive service employees
  • Excepted service employees in executive agencies (with certain exclusions)
  • Career appointees in the Senior Executive Service
  • Employees of government corporations and the Government Printing Office (GPO)

As noted above, former employees and applicants are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act as well. Those who are not eligible for protection include employees of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other intelligence agencies.

Discuss Your Whistleblower Case in Confidence

If you would like more information about your rights as a federal employee under the Whistleblower Protection Act, or if you need to inquire about filing an Individual Right of Action with the MSPB, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a confidential initial consultation with one of our federal employment attorneys, please call (888) 846-7844 or contact Melville Johnson, P.C. online today.

Successfully litigated against all federal agencies for 24 years, has brought cases before most circuit courts of appeals, as well as the United States Supreme Court on behalf of federal employees he has represented.