Whistleblower Protection Act

Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA)

Understanding Your Rights as a Whistleblower

The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) was passed in 1989. Its stated purpose was to “strengthen and improve protection for the rights of Federal employees, to prevent reprisals, and to help eliminate wrongdoing in the government.”

The WPA amended an earlier act, the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) of 1978. The CSRA created a Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to replace the Civil Service Commission, which had been in existence since the late 1800s. It had been the job of the Commission to ensure that federal employees were selected and advanced according to their ability and value— their “merit”—not as a result of partisan politics, favoritism, or connections to powerful people. This was known as the “merit system.” The new MSPB was also charged with upholding the principles of the merit system.

The CSRA created an office within the MSRB to investigate alleged “prohibited personnel practices”—the unfair treatment of federal employees—and take action. It was called the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC).

It became apparent, however, that the OSC was not doing its job. According to a report prepared for Congress by the MSPB, the Whistleblower Protection Act was necessary because the OSC “was perceived as failing to protect whistleblowers.” The WPA moved the OSC out from under the MSPB and made it an independent Federal agency with broad powers to investigate allegations of prohibited personnel practices and take corrective action.

Among the federal personnel practices that are prohibited if taken in retaliation for whistleblowing are:

  • Removal or demotion.
  • A “transfer, or reassignment.”
  • Any “significant change in duties, responsibilities, or working conditions.”
  • “A decision concerning pay, benefits, or awards.”
  • A decision concerning education or training, “if the education or training may reasonably be expected to lead to an appointment, promotion, performance evaluation,” or other personnel practice.

The Whistleblower Protection Act amended several sections of the CSRA and added new sections 1211-1222. The core of the WPA is found in Title 5, sections 1211 through 1216 of the U.S. Code, and section 1221, which permits a whistleblower who has first complained about retaliatory actions before the OSC to appeal an adverse OSC ruling directly to the MSRB. (Certain more serious personnel actions, including removal, suspensions that exceed 14 days, and reductions in grade or pay, could be appealed directly to the MSRB—without going to the OSC—even before the WPA. This is still the case.)

The Whistleblower Protection Act also added section 3352 to Title 5, giving preference to an employee who has applied to transfer to another position if that employee is:

  • Qualified and eligible for the position; and
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board makes a determination that a prohibited personnel action was taken against the employee in retaliation for legal acts of whistleblowing.

Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act

By 2000, several decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had substantially weakened the WPA by holding that certain disclosures by whistleblowers were not protected. In response, Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) of 2012. The WPEA strengthened the law by amending Title 5, section 2302, which defines prohibited personnel practices.

The WPEA established that whistleblower disclosures do not lose protection even if the disclosure was:

  • Made to a supervisor or person who participated in the wrongdoing the whistleblower was disclosing.
  • Revealed previously disclosed information.
  • Was not made in writing.
  • Was made during the normal course of the employee’s duties, as long as it can be shown that the disclosure resulted in a prohibited retaliation against the employee.

In addition, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act clarified that disclosures are not excluded from protection because of 1) the employee’s motive for making the disclosure or 2) the amount of time which had passed since the occurrence of the events described in the disclosure.

The WPEA also enhanced whistleblower protections afforded federal employees in several other ways. To protect scientific integrity, the Act amended Title 5, section 2302, adding a note that extends whistleblower protections to disclosures that an “employee or applicant reasonably believes is evidence of censorship related to research, analysis, or technical information.”

The law prohibited attempts to silence whistleblowers be means of non-disclosure agreements and made it mandatory that, where such agreements exist, employees must be informed that they do not alter their rights and protections under whistleblower law (see Title 5, section 2302(b)(13)).

The law strengthened the ability of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to bring disciplinary actions against managers or agencies found to have retaliated against a whistleblower. The OSC must only demonstrate that the whistleblower’s disclosure was a “significant motivating factor” in the adverse action taken by the manager or agency, even if other factors were involved (see Section 1215 (a)(3)(B)).

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act added compensatory damages to the remedies available to the whistleblower. A 1994 amendment to the Whistleblower Protection Act entitled a wronged whistleblower to “reimbursement for attorney’s fees, back pay and related benefits, medical costs incurred, travel expenses, and any other reasonable and foreseeable consequential damages.” The WPEA added “compensatory damages (including interest, reasonable expert witness fees, and costs)” to the remedies. (See section 1214(g)(2)).

Do you need to speak with a whistleblower lawyer about your rightS? Our Los Angeles legal team at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman can fight on your behalf. Call (855) 948-5098 today.

Contact Us Today

No Fees Unless We Win
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • +1
    Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please enter your city.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.
  • Whistleblower Settlement $18 Million

    $18 million settlement for Boeing government overcharging on aircraft maintenance

  • Whistleblower Settlement $8.5 Million
  • Whistleblower Settlement $8.5 Million
  • Whistleblower Settlement $6.5 Million
  • Whistleblower Settlement $1.2 Million
  • Whistleblower Settlement $1.3 Million
  • Best Law Firms 2021
    Best Law Firms 2021

    The U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

  • National Trial Lawyers Top 100
    National Trial Lawyers Top 100

    The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 recognized the law firms of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, the Miller Firm and Audet & Partners with the 2019 Trial Team of the Year award (in the Mass Torts category) for their work in the groundbreaking case of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson v. Monsanto Company.

  • California Powerhouse
    California Powerhouse

    Law360 recognizes law firms that have a strong regional presence, working on important matters within their home state. “[Baum Hedlund] possesses a David v. Goliath-sized slingshot while seeking justice for everyday citizens it believes were harmed or killed through corporate wrongdoing.”

  • Elite Trial Lawyers
    Elite Trial Lawyers

    NLJ and American Lawyer Media honor law firms and attorneys as Elite Trial Lawyers for their cutting-edge legal work on behalf of plaintiffs in practice areas ranging from mass torts to securities litigation.

  • Listed in Best Lawyers
    Listed in Best Lawyers

    Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. A listing in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers.

  • AV Top Ranked Law Firm
    AV Top Ranked Law Firm

    Less than one-half of one percent of firms across the nation have achieved this ranking. A firm must have a high percentage of lawyers who have achieved the prestigious AV® Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell®.

  • Verdicts Hall of Fame
    Verdicts Hall of Fame

    The National Law Journal inducted Baum Hedlund into the Verdicts Hall of Fame for obtaining the $2 billion landmark verdict in the Roundup cancer case of Pilliod et al. v. Monsanto. The verdict was #1 in California and #2 in the U.S. in 2019 and is #9 in American history.

  • Super Lawyers
    Super Lawyers

    Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated
    AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated

    An AV® rating reflects an attorney who has reached the heights of professional excellence. The rating signifies the highest legal ability, and very high adherence to professional standards of conduct, ethics, reliability, and diligence.

  • Board Certified Attorneys
    Board Certified Attorneys

    The National Board of Trial Advocacy is one of the nation’s largest and oldest private board-certification organizations for attorneys. Two of our shareholders are certified in multiple specialties.

  • Top Jury Verdict in <br> CA and USA
    Top Jury Verdict in
    CA and USA

    TopVerdict.com ranks our $2 billion verdict in Pilliod et al. v. Monsanto as the biggest verdict in California and the second largest verdict in the U.S. in 2019. It is the ninth largest verdict in U.S. history.

  • Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers
    Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers

    Published annually, the Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers list recognizes the “best of the best” in this area of the law through nominations, research, and review by a board of their peers.

  • Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
    Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States.  Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements.

  • Product Liability Practice Group of the Year
    Product Liability Practice Group of the Year

    In 2020, Law360 honored the law firms ”behind the litigation wins and major deals that resonated throughout the legal industry.” It recognized our success in several landmark cases.

  • Top Personal Injury Jury Verdict in California
    Top Personal Injury Jury Verdict in California

    In 2018, our $289 million Johnson v. Monsanto verdict was the largest personal injury verdict in California. TopVerdict.com also ranked it #2 among all verdicts in California and #10 in the nation.

  • Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers
    Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers

    The Bar Register is the definitive guide to the most distinguished law firms in America. It includes only those select law practices that have earned the highest rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and have been designated by their colleagues as preeminent in their field.


Firm Reviews

What Our Clients Are Saying
  • I Can’t Imagine a Better Law Firm

    “Multiple lawyers recommended Baum Hedlund to me and I have been consistently impressed with the quality of their work.”

    - Best Law Firms Survey
  • They Are About Changing the Systems...

    “Baum Hedlund are not only amazing attorneys but more importantly, they are activists. They are about changing the systems which got us into trouble in the first place. They understand their role in the process of making change.”

    - Kim Witczak
  • Top Legal Minds in the Country

    “The Baum, Hedlund firm has some of the top legal minds in the country; they are driven, determined, trustworthy, ethical and passionate.”

    - From Best Lawyers® Best Law Firms
  • Diligent & Professional Representation

    “Thanks to your efforts I was able to recover from a tragic experience and turn my life around for the best.”

    - W.T.
  • Our Best Interest Was Always Number One on Your List

    “A special thank you to your Spanish-speaking staff for the extra effort put into this case. The language barrier was never a problem, and we are so very thankful to them. Your name holds much respect in our family.”

    - G.C. & C.C