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Lawmakers push IRS to better support whistleblower protections

On Behalf of | May 2, 2024 | Whistleblower Protection

Each federal agency is required to have procedures in place to better ensure federal employees do not suffer from retaliation for reporting wrongful activity. Many agencies also have whistleblower protection programs in place. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is one such agency, however its whistleblower protection program is relatively new and continues to evolve to better protect workers.

Are whistleblowers protected at the IRS?

In theory, yes. Protections against retaliation are available for federal employees at the IRS who report wrongful activity. In reality, the process is complicated. In a recent example, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called out the agency and pushed that they make changes to better protect their workers. Senator Grassley noted whistleblowers are often the “most patriotic” people he knows and pushed for IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel to support those who bring important information about the workings within his agency. The comments were part of a Senate Finance Committee hearing with the agency’s commissioner. A hearing that the lawmaker used as an opportunity to call out Commissioner Werfel for failing to meet with not one, but two IRS whistleblowers.

In addition to pushing for Commissioner Werfel to meet with the agents, Senator Grassley also encouraged the agency to adjust how they pay out whistleblower awards. The agency is behind on making payouts in part because current policy does not provide payment until it finalizes all claims related to the case. Instead, the lawmaker has proposed the agency consider partial payments with the resolution of each individual claim.

Making the choice to come forward with such sensitive information is often a difficult one. Although the noble act helps to better ensure taxpayer funds are spent to better the country, not every patriot is treated with the respect this brave action warrants. Some may find themselves the victims of illegal retaliation, potentially including:

  • Termination,
  • Demotion, and
  • Bad evaluations or disciplinary action.

This can include a letter of admonishment if used as a corrective action to modify the federal worker’s behavior in the future. A worker can also have a claim of retaliation based on the threat of adverse action.

These are just a few examples of acts of illegal whistleblower retaliation. It is important to note that the rules that guide whistleblower protections for federal employees are different from those used in the private sector. Anyone that believes they may be the victim of illegal whistleblower retaliation is wise to seek the guidance of legal counsel experienced in this niche area of law.


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