Anyone who tells the public or another person in authority about alleged deceitful or unlawful activity taking place in a government department, private company or organization is considered a whistleblower. Either internal or external allegations can be made by the whistleblower on the alleged misconduct that can be classified in many different ways including law, fraud, health and safety violations, and corruption. There have been laws enacted in order to protect whistleblowers with the earliest one being the 1863 United States False Claims Act, which attempted to combat the fraud of suppliers of the United States government during the American Civil War. The act attempted to encourage whistleblowers to come forth with promises of damage compensation for an amount of a percentage value of monetary earnings won by the government, in addition to providing protection from wrongful termination.
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is legislation that the United States has to protect federal whistleblowers that are employed by the government and report agency wrongdoing. If agency authorities take disciplinary action against any employed individual or applicant due to disclosing information by that employee or applicant, that agency is in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act. If an action is reasonably believed to prove a violation of a rule or regulation, gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, law, or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, the whistleblower may file a complaint against the action. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 provides authority to three authorized federal agencies that each have a specific duty in carrying out during a whistleblowers case: the Office of Special Counsel, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The Office of Special Counsel, a permanent independent federal investigative prosecutorial agency, investigates federal whistle-blower complaints. It has jurisdiction over most barred personnel practice complaints brought by executive branch agency employees and applicants for employment. When a personal practice complaint is appropriately put forward to the OSC, the agency investigates the allegation and in the event they find adequate confirmation, the agency seeks corrective action and/or disciplinary action. The OSC also helps reinforce defense against retaliation for employees who release information to the public regarding the wrongdoings in government, thus enhancing the Office of Special Counsel’s ability to enforce these protections.
The Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent quasi-judicial agency, ensures sufficient protection for federal employees against mistreatment by agency administrators. The board uses agency lawyers in the place of administrative laws judges in order to determine federal employees’ whistleblower appeals; however, since 2000, the board has only ruled in favor of a whistleblower in three out of fifty-six cases based on their merits.
The final authorized federal agency is the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the only court able to hear whistleblower’s appeals decided by the Merit Board. The Court has been criticized by many members of congress for misinterpreting laws associated with whistleblowers and establishing a guide that is antagonistic towards claimants. Since the revision of the Whistleblowers Protection Act in 1994, the court has only produced a favorable ruling for a whistleblower in three out of two hundred and three cases decided on their merits.
Many times whistleblower protection does not protect federal workers. Recently the Supreme Court ruled in excluding whistleblower actions covered in the job description for federal workers. If there is a job related issue, it must go through a pecking order of organization. In the occasion that this fails, the issue must be brought to the awareness of the Merit Systems Protection Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the Office of Personnel Management, if it influences employment. Other unspecified issues that are not precisely correlated with the job and do not have a negative effect on national security may be appropriate for public revelation. Actions that can be publicly disclosed include sexual harassment, slander, and racism.