New Whistleblower Protections Now In Effect For Federal Contractors

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By now, most federal contractors are aware of the new regulations that go into effect on March 24 requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain protected veterans and individuals with disabilities

What many contractors may not realize is that as of July 1, 2013, they also became covered by federal whistleblower regulations. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 created a pilot program mandating that all employees working for contractors, grantees, subcontractors, and subgrantees be protected by federal whistleblower law for all federal grants and contracts entered into after July 1, 2013.

Essentially, contractors and subcontractors may not discharge, demote, or otherwise discriminate against an employee as a reprisal for disclosing to a government agent or body information about behavior that the employee reasonably believes constitutes:

• Gross mismanagement of a federal contract or grant;
• A gross waste of federal funds;
• An abuse of authority related to federal funds;
• A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or
• A violation of law, rule or regulation.

Contractors are required to inform their employees, in writing, of the rights and remedies provided under the whistleblower laws and that employees are subject to whistleblower rights and remedies. This four-year pilot program applies to all grants, contracts, subgrants, and subcontracts issued through January 1, 2017.

In order to be protected under the law, the employee must make a report to a Member of Congress, a representative of a Congressional Committee, an Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, a federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight at the relevant agency, an authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency, a court or grand jury, or a management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, or grantee who has the responsibility to investigate discover, or address misconduct.

Employers with grants, contracts, and subcontracts from the federal government should take the time to make sure that their employees know they may report suspected fraud, waste, or abuse to the government without fear of retaliation by their employers.