Do Independent Contractors Have Whistleblower Rights?

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Do Independent Contractors Have Whistleblower Rights?

smart phone with incoming call from whistleblower alert

The federal government has recognized the important role that whistleblowers play in keeping the government and organizations honest and accountable for their actions. This is why they have implemented whistleblower rights. Whistleblower rights protect both employees and independent contractors from retaliation for exposing illegal or unethical practices. If you require legal representation reach out to an Atlanta whistleblower protection attorney to learn about your rights.

What is a Whistleblower?

Whistleblowers play a crucial role in upholding the accountability and ethical standards of organizations. A whistleblower is a person, usually an employee, who exposes information about illegal, immoral, or fraudulent activities within an organization. If an employee discovers information about their company contributing to corruption, waste, abuse, or a danger to public health, they may report the wrongdoing to another authority.

What is the Whistleblower Protection Act?

The WPA (Whistleblower Protection Act) is a federal law enacted in 1989 that protects federal employees from potential retaliation from employers if they blow the whistle on some illicit activity. While whistleblowers are important to ensure strong moral standards and to stop any illegal or unethical practices, companies and organizations may react negatively to being exposed for their wrongdoings. The WPA protects the whistleblower from having their employment terminated, being demoted, having their salary cut, or being discriminated against in any way.

Are Independent Contractors Protected By Whistleblower Rights?

In the United States, whistleblower protection laws generally apply to federal employees. Individual states can impose their own laws protecting employees who expose their unlawful company practices.

Because they specialize in certain sectors of business, contractors and subcontractors are often in the right place at the right time to witness illicit activities. Employees of federal contractors and personal contractors for the government can make a protected disclosure to an authorized entity, such as:

  • The United States Government Accountability Office
  • A member of Congress
  • An Inspector General
  • An authorized official of a law enforcement agency
  • A court or grand jury
  • A federal employee who is responsible for oversight or management of the project
  • A contractor employee who is responsible for investigating and addressing misconduct

What Disclosures Are Protected By the WPA?

Suppose a federal employee or contractor discovers some wrongdoing in the practices of the company they work for. In that case, they may wish to disclose the information to one of the above authorized people or entities. There are certain protected disclosures that an employee can expose without retaliation. A protected disclosure must include one or more of the following.

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

If an employee has information that alludes to any of the above they are within their rights to report their evidence and belief to the proper authorities. Under federal law, they cannot be penalized for this act of whistleblowing.

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