Whistleblowers are protected by U.S. Department of Labor regulations and administrative law in the context of safety complaints in the airline industry, the nuclear industry, certain environmental protections and surface transportation industry.
Federal whistleblower statutes protect employees against retaliatory personnel actions after reporting violations of federal laws or regulations.
Civilian defense contractors are also covered under federal defense contractor statutes, which provide whistleblower protection for those employees who report contract-related violations to the government. This statute covers employees of civilian defense and space contractors and allows an employee to disclose information about a contract law violation without retaliation by the employer. This protection extends to “whistleblowing” with regard to the competition for and negotiation of defense contracts.
To qualify for protection under this statute, the employee must disclose any information regarding violations to a member of Congress, an authorized official of the Defense Department or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or to the Justice Department.
The federal defense contractor whistleblower statute protects against discharge, demotion or any other form of discrimination against an employee for disclosing violations. An employee who believes to have been subjected to retaliation must file a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) or one of the covered agencies. The OIG will conduct an investigation, summarize the findings of the investigation and submit the report to the agency head. The agency head will then make a determination as to whether the contractor is guilty of retaliation.
If the agency head finds the contractor committed the prohibited retaliation, it may order the contractor to perform any of the following actions:
In addition to employee lawsuits, whistleblower claims can be very damaging to employers because of the possibility of the negative publicity and government investigations that may follow. Employers wishing to reduce the possibility of litigation or administrative review should implement the following safeguards:
Policies and Forms
Chapter 25: Whistleblower protections