Whistleblower Protections

A number of federal award grantees are receiving communications from Federal agencies regarding the "Pilot Program for Enhancement of Contractor Employee Whistleblower Protections" (the "Pilot Whistleblower Program").   Federal agencies are required to inform their grantees of new rights under the Pilot Whistleblower Program, applicable between July 1, 2013, through January 1, 2017.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), P.L. 112-239, signed by President Obama, on January 2, 2013, significantly expanded the Whistleblower Program, and extended the protections that applied previously only to federal employees. Now, employees of grantees and sub-grantees (as well as contractors and subcontractors) of federal awards are offered protections from reprisal for whistleblowing, along with a new process for submission and review of complaints.

Impacted Agencies: Per the statute and regulations, these provisions do not apply to grantees (or contractors) of federal awards from DoD, NASA, Coast Guard, or any element of the intelligence community.

"Whistleblowing" is the process of reporting any evidence of:
  • Gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant;
  • The gross waste of Federal funds;
  • An abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant;
  • A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or,
  • A violation of law or regulation related to a Federal contract or grant (including the competition for, or negotiation of, a contract or grant).
Grantees cannot be dismissed, demoted or discriminated against for reporting such issues, if disclosed to the following:
  • A Member of Congress, or a representative of a Congressional committee;
  • An Inspector General;
  • The Government Accountability Office;
  • A federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant agency;
  • An official from the Department of Justice, or other law enforcement agency;
  • A court or grand jury; or,
  • A management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or sub-grantee who has the responsibility to investigate, discover or address misconduct.
For additional details (statute and regulations on the Pilot Whistleblower Act):