“Whistleblowing” involves disclosure of information a federal employee (state and local employees are possibly covered under state laws) or applicant reasonably believes evidences a violation of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) prohibits agencies from taking adverse personnel action against employees (and applicants) based on the employee or applicant engaging in whistleblowing activities. However, the WPA does not apply to disclosures specifically prohibited by law or information required to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or conduct of foreign affairs (see, 5 USC 2302 (b)(8) for more information). Similarly, the same rules may apply to certain domestic law enforcement functions. However, it is important to realize the WPA doe snot provided any form of immunity from false claims.
Prohibited Personnel Practices
Whereas, Title 5 USC 2302 (b) enumerates Prohibited Personnel Practices and include unlawful discrimination; improper personnel solicitations and recommendations; coercing political activity; improperly influencing employment decisions; granting improper preferences in personnel decisions; appointing relatives improperly; retaliation against whistleblowers; retaliation for the exercise of appeal or grievance rights; discrimination on the basis of conduct which is not job-related; and violations of the merit system principles. However, PPP’s do not restrict agencies from, for example, certain flexibilities in hiring or managing the workforce.
It is important to realize, when considering whether to become a whistleblower, whether the protections described above cover the intended disclose. As an illustration, many federal employees use whistleblowing claims to posit grievances and grudges. This can backfire on the employee. In other words, many employees believe everything is qualified whistleblower disclosure when it is not. Some employees also insist denial of leave constitutes an “abuse of authority” when it does not. Furthermore, we also recommend the employee obtain at least a qualified second opinion before any disclosure. In short, making false disclosures can have consequences.
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