Whistleblower Protection Act Overview | Mann & Elias
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Whistleblower Protection Act Overview


The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is the basis for many of the whistleblower protection measures that exist today. If you intend to report wrongdoing in your workplace, you need to be well versed in the provisions of this hallmark law. In this blog post, we will be looking at various aspects of the Act, including its history, evolution, and its major provisions. Read on to find out whether you qualify to be a whistleblower, what the procedure for disclosure involves, and why you should hire a whistleblower attorney in Los Angeles to guide you along the way.

Whistleblower Protection Act History

The history of the whistleblower protection can be traced back to 1778 when congress passed a law to protect those who wished to disclose the illegal acts of their superiors. The Act was passed to protect ten sailors who filed a petition against their commodore, claiming that he had tortured British prisoners during the Revolutionary War.

In more recent times, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 provided more specific protection to federal employees who wished to bring attention to the wrongful Act of their superiors. The Act was further improved by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. The WPA offered whistleblowers better cover by:

  • Clarifying the procedure that whistleblowers would follow to disclose illegal acts and retaliation
  • Separating the Office of Special Counsel from that of the Merits Systems Protection Board. The OSC would be dedicated to receiving disclosures, investigating retaliation claims and representing whistleblowers

Who is Covered by the Whistleblowers Protection Act?

A whistleblower is an employee who discloses misconduct in a federal office. For you to qualify for protection under the WPA of 1989, you must be a present or past federal employee. Prospective employees, such as applicants for a federal job, can also report wrongdoing as well.

However, not all government employees are covered by the WPA. For instance, members of the military, federal contractors, and employees of the U.S postal service are not covered by the Act. Additionally, those who work for intelligence services like the NSA and CIA cannot bring their knowledge of misconduct to the OSC for further investigation. This is especially true where the information in question relates to confidential matters such as national defense.

What Type Conduct May Be Reported?

The WPA provides that employees can bring information about any of the following actions to the OSC;

  • Violations of laws, rules, and regulations
  • Gross mismanagement of funds
  • Specific danger to public safety and health
  • Abuse of power

An employee who has first-hand knowledge of such actions can bring it to the OSC. It is essential the information presented be verifiable; the OSC will not accept secondhand information and speculations. One can also not make an anonymous disclosure to the OSC. You may, however, request that they keep your identity confidential, which by law they would be required to do.

Once a report has been made to the OSC, the office assesses it on its merits. If they find it to be warranted, they forward it to the relevant authority for investigation and action.

The OSC deals with retaliation claims in addition to disclosures. Retaliation refers to when a federal officer, typically a superior, causes a whistleblower to suffer because of their disclosure. Retaliation can involve threatening to fire the employee or actually firing them, demoting them, or creating a hostile environment at work.

For a retaliation claim to succeed, an employee needs to prove three things;

  • Another person had already made the disclosure
  • The employee had questionable motives to disclose the wrongdoing
  • The employee first disclosed to an officer who participated in the misconduct
  • The employee made the disclosure when they were off duty
  • A lot of time has passed since the events revealed took place

Further, the Act creates the office of the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman. The purpose of this office is to afford aggrieved whistleblowers a chance to bring their issues to an administrative justice office. The law enhances punishment for whistleblower protection violations. This is meant to deter those who might want to undermine the protective measures the law grants whistleblowers. For a successful claim, it is vital to have an experienced lawyer represent you.


The Whistleblower Protection Act plays the essential role of ensuring that those who raise awareness about misconduct in government offices do not suffer retaliation for their actions. This legislation aims to empower employees to come forward with information about misdeeds in federal offices without fear of suffering unpleasant consequences. This can help save a lot of public funds, minimize instances of corruption, and prevent federal officers in positions of power from misusing their authority.

If you intend to disclose some information to the OSC, it is vital that you first seek legal representation. Our employment attorney in Los Angeles will help you understand the intricacies of witness protection law. They will also help you determine the protection provisions that best protect your interests. Should things go wrong at any stage during the disclosure, you will have an invaluable asset.

For more information about whistleblower protection, don’t hesitate to contact our law firm. We specialize in providing whistleblower legal representation in California. We look forward to hearing from you.


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