Congress Gives Green Light to Expanded Whistleblower Protections

12/07/2012 // San Francisco, CA, USA // Whistleblower Law Firm // Jeffrey Keller // (press release)

In an important expansion of whistleblower legislation, the US Senate approved on November 13 a measure that strengthens whistleblower protections for federal workers who speak out about fraudulent behavior. The legislation — the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) — will now go to President Obama for his signature. Once enacted, the law, which will be enforced by The Office of Special Counsel, will help to support federal employees who expose wrongdoing in the government workplace.

In recent years, federal and state whistleblower laws have played a significant role in curbing — and correcting — improper acts that lead to fraud and waste. Indeed, the gold standard of whistleblower laws — the federal False Claims Act — has led to the recovery of more than $30 billion for the government since the statute was substantially amended in 1986. Under these statutes, whistleblowers typically receive a share of the amount ultimately recovered.

“This new law sends an important message,” says Jeffrey F. Keller, a founding partner at Keller Grover, a nationally recognized labor and employment law firm, and a veteran whistleblower lawyer. “The role of whistleblowers in helping expose fraud on the government through the False Claims Act is beyond dispute. But while we’ve developed the law to protect most whistleblowers in their valuable role, there was a gap to the extent that whistleblowers in the government didn’t enjoy the same kinds of protection as people who work for private employers. These are people who are on the front lines in government agencies and are in key positions to observe — and speak out about — fraud and other improper behavior. The new law will help protect them when they do just that.”

The new statute, says Keller, extends whistleblower protections to all individuals who disclose fraud and abuse, not just the first to report it; it strengthens the First Amendment speech rights of government employees, and provides mechanisms for economic damages for whistleblowers who suffer retaliation. The new law also extends whistleblower rights to federal employees at the Transportation Security Administration who were not covered by existing laws.

“We’ve seen whistleblowers become an essential tool in rooting out fraud and they deserve protection for playing this invaluable role – no matter where they work. The WPEA is helping send that message and is going to empower a lot of people inside government to speak out on fraud and waste. In the end, that benefits every taxpayer and citizen,” says Keller, whose firm has offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. “This is a long overdue upgrade of the whistleblower laws, and it will pay dividends — for all of us — for many years to come.”

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