New precedent for employee whistleblowers

A new precedent exists for whistleblower protection cases, changing how federal employees qualify for protection under the act.

People in Dallas who work for the federal government are only too aware that there are certain rules and guidelines that must be followed. In the event that these rules are not followed, laws such as the Whistleblowers Protection Act of 1989 are in place to provide employees with protection if they report a violation. Now, a recent court decision may bring new meaning to the handling of suspicious activities in federal workplaces.

Whistleblower Protection Act basics

The Whistleblower Protection Act was enacted to ensure that federal employees have a safe and healthy work environment. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission states that the act gives employees the right to report the following violations:

  • Actions that put the public's safety or health at risk
  • Mismanagement of federal funds or waste of funds
  • Fraud
  • Abuse of authority

Additionally, under the Act, federal employees cannot lose their benefits, their jobs or have other actions taken against them for speaking up about unsafe or unethical work practices.

Effect of recent decisions

A decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals may change the way whistleblower protection cases are interpreted. According to the Government Executive, a new precedent was set in a recent case that allows federal workplaces to punish employees for not carrying out orders, even if they are breaking regulations. A Supreme Court decision was cited in the Court of Appeals' ruling. According to the Supreme Court case, whistleblower protections extend only to federal employees who break rules. As federal departments may choose to define law in such a way that whistleblowing is negated, protections hinge on how the law is interpreted.

According to the Court of Appeals, employees are required to follow a supervisor's requests, even if those requests do not align with federal regulations. This ruling was reached in a case between the State Department and one of their employees. The employee in question received a negative performance review after he refused to hire a subcontractor that had been previously fired. The Federal Acquisition Regulation does not allow for this. The employee also lost his job responsibilities to hire contractors. The Court of Appeals decision was made after a ruling by the Merit Systems Protection Board. Both reached the decision that the supervisor could have been disregarded only if he asked his employee to break a federal law.

With new understandings of what comprises whistleblowing, it is important for federal employees to know their rights at their own workplaces. An attorney can help people determine what is considered a whistleblowing claim and what their rights are so that they can always feel safe at work.