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Whistleblowing and retaliation: What do federal employees need to know?

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2023 | Whistleblower Protection

Federal employees enter their chosen profession for any number of reasons, but likely do so with the intent to help make our country a better place. This makes it even more frustrating when these same workers notice unethical or illegal actions within the workplace. They may choose to come forward and call out the wrongdoing, to stand up as a whistleblower in an attempt to right the wrong.

Unfortunately, the offending employer may act out in frustration. They may act out against the employee who steps forward. This can take the form of bypassing that worker for a promotion, bonus, relocation to an undesirable position or even termination from employment.

This is more than just unfair and unethical; it is illegal.

What laws protect workers in this situation?

The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) makes it illegal for federal employers to retaliate against employees in this situation. It is also listed as a prohibited personnel practice (PPPs) banned in the federal workforce. Commission of an activity in violation of the PPPs can result in action against the offender by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

Are there any legal remedies for federal employees who are the victims of retaliation?

Various legal remedies are available and can include:

  • Get your job back. If the retaliation resulted in termination, legal action could result in the restoration of your position.
  • Back pay. A successful case can lead to reimbursement for missed pay. This can include time spent unemployed or missed wages from a promotion or bonus that the offender withheld as part of the retaliation.
  • Legal expenses. You can also build a successful argument for the accused to cover any legal expenses related to the case.

Additional remedies may be available depending on the details of the case.

How do I build a retaliation case?

As discussed in more detail in a previous article, available here, these cases often begin by filing a complaint with the United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC). This agency can investigate whistleblower retaliation claims and attempt to guide mediation towards a resolution.

It is important to note that the allegations alone are not enough — you will need evidence to support your claim. This an include evidence that shows the employer violated a rule, regulation, or law, caused gross mismanagement or waste of funds, or abused their authority.

The good news is you do not have to go it alone. You can hire legal counsel to advocate for your interests and better ensure your rights and remedies are protected.


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