California residents who work in the offices of federal government agencies are now covered by enhanced whistleblower protection provisions. The Office of Special Counsel has issued various memos to federal agencies reminding them about the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump after being passed without much debate by Congress. The OSC memos remind supervisors at federal agencies that retaliating against employees who blow the whistle on fraud, waste and abuse situation could bring about serious consequences at the personal level.
The first memorandum issued by the OSC makes it clear that terminations of whistleblowers could result in personal consequences not just for those who issue the pink slip but also for those who support the retaliatory action. The other two memos highlight the importance of training, promoting awareness and updating disclosure forms as they apply to the issue of reporting government malfeasance and misconduct as it applies to issues related to unethical practices.
While it may seem ironic that the Trump administration has enacted new whistleblower protections at a time when the White House is besieged by investigations conducted by the Office of Special Counsel, it is important to note that the good work of whistleblowers is always welcome despite the prevailing political climate. At a time when California voters are demanding more transparency in their federal agencies, potential whistleblowers should not feel that their careers may be on the line if they do the right thing.
The new protections require higher levels of accountability, which extend to employee communications. People who have been wrongfully dismissed from their federal jobs might find it advisable to discuss their circumstances with an employment law attorney.
Source: FedSmith, “OSC Issues New Whistleblower Protection Guidelines to Agencies“, Ian Smith, Feb. 6, 2018