Federal Contractors

A relatively new law provides protection for federal contractors. You might be covered if you can check at least one box in response to each of the following questions:

Are (or were) you…

  • An employee of a government contractor
  •  An employee of a government subcontractor
  • An employee of a government grantee.

Were you…

  • Discharged
  •  Demoted
  • Otherwise discriminated against

Do you suspect that the adverse personnel action in reprisal for disclosing information you reasonably believed to be evidence of…

  • Gross mismanagement of a federal contract or grant
  • Gross waste of federal funds (must be a very, very large amount of money)
  • An abuse of authority relating to a federal contract or grant (taking action that goes against the federal agency’s mission or interferes with the successful performance of the contract or grant under which your employer operates)
  • A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
  • A violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract   (including in competing for or negotiating the contract) or grant

Did you make the disclosure to…

  • A Member of Congress or a representative of a committee of Congress
  • An Inspector General’s office
  • The Government Accountability Office
  • A federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant agency
  • An authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency
  • A court or grand jury
  • A management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, or grantee who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address the misconduct.

What’s the Process?

If this law covers you, you can file complaint with the Inspector General (IG) of the federal agency that contracted with your employer within three years of the date when the alleged reprisal took place.  Here’s a basic outline:

  •  Step 1 – IG investigation: As long as you haven’t already initiated some other judicial or administrative proceeding to address the problem, and as long as your complaint isn’t frivolous or clearly fails to meet all the criteria above, the IG will investigate.
  •  Step 2 – IG report: The IG will report his or her findings to you, your employer, and the head of the government agency involved.
  •  Step 3 – Agency response: Within 30 days of receiving an IG’s report, the agency determines whether there’s a sufficient basis to conclude that your employer retaliated against you.  
    • If the IG finds the answer is no, the agency issues an order denying relief.  You then have two years from the date of issuance to appeal to the appropriate United States District Court, where a judge – or a jury upon request – will decide it.  You can also appeal if the agency fails to act in a timely fashion.  
    • If yes, the agency will order your employer to take appropriate action, which might mean reversing your firing if you were fired, paying you for expenses reasonably incurred in pursuing the complaint, or taking other actions to remedy the reprisal situation.  If your employer does not obey the order, the head of the agency must file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.  In this situation, you also have the right to file an action on your own behalf, or you can join the action by the agency head.
Is it confidential? Yes, unless you consent to release of information.


Anything else I should know?

You may also have remedies under state law, other federal laws or administrative programs offered by the contracting federal agency.  Consult an attorney for more information.

This new federal statute took effect July 2013 and sunsets four years later unless extended by Congress.