Since 1977, Government Accountability Project has worked to promote government and corporate accountability by working with whistleblowers—employees who feel compelled to speak up after discovering illegality, gross mismanagement or waste of funds, and threats to health, safety and the environment in order to affect change. By offering legal support and advocacy assistance to whistleblowers whose concerns expose abuses of power, we advance the rights of employees to raise concerns free from reprisal while at the same time protecting the public interest by turning evidence of wrongdoing into real reform.
As a nonprofit with limited resources, Government Accountability Project unfortunately isn’t able to offer formal representation for every whistleblower. We review all requests for support and if we are not able to take it on, we offer strategic advice or referrals to other agencies, organizations, or lawyers that may be able to provide assistance. We will let you know as soon as possible whether or not we can accept your case, although, it may take up to a month for our team to review your case and get back to you.
As an applicant, you are responsible for understanding any legal deadlines associated with your case, and Government Accountability Project is not responsible for alerting you that a deadline is approaching during the application process. Contacting us to describe your problem does not mean that we represent you and will not stop the statute of limitations from running.
Frequently Asked Questions
A whistleblower is someone who chooses to disclose evidence he or she reasonably believes constitutes:
- A violation of law, rule, or regulation;
- Gross mismanagement;
- Gross waste of funds;
- Abuse of authority; or
- A substantial and specific danger to public health, safety, or the environment.
Employees who refuse to obey an illegal order or who report censorship of scientific research that would result in the above types of misconduct are also generally considered to be whistleblowers.
Generally, a whistleblower is not a direct victim of the misconduct he or she reports; instead, a whistleblower typically becomes aware of the wrongdoing in the course of their employment.
- Legal Representation: Government Accountability Project’s attorneys offer legal advice to whistleblowers and/or the lawyers or NGOs who represent them.
- Advocacy: Government Accountability Project creates political pressure to promote change from whistleblowers’ disclosures through direct advocacy with U.S. members of Congress and the media, including by authoring books, op-eds, and other publications.
- Mediation: Government Accountability Project’s legal experts help reach legal agreements between governments and whistleblowers.
- Documentation Security: Government Accountability Project helps would-be whistleblowers effectively and safely blow the whistle by properly navigating technology and preserving evidence.
- Networks: Whistleblowers are more effective when they’re supported not just with direct legal support, but also from their peers. Government Accountability Project connects whistleblowers to resources through our networks of:
- Bar Associations
- Law Firms
- Non-governmental organizations, often through the Whistleblower International Network (WIN), a global whistleblower-rights network that Government Accountability Project co-founded.
- Civil Society and Community-Based Organizations
- Regional Coalitions such as the Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection.
Our primary focus is in promoting government and corporate accountability for widespread, systemic issues and problems that affect fundamental public interests. There are no limits on the breadth of topics that Government Accountability Project will address. Our overarching priority is protecting the public interest and promoting a functioning democracy by protecting and empowering whistleblowers. The cases we choose have an impact beyond the individual client, either by challenging a policy or practice that affects large numbers of people or interests, or by expanding legal protections or setting precedent to help future whistleblowers.
We offer legal and advocacy representation to whistleblowers who seek assistance in disclosing serious concerns safely and effectively. We also offer legal and advocacy support to those who have already reported problems, either internally to their management or externally to regulators, enforcement officials, elected officials, watchdog or non-profit organizations, or the press, and who may be experiencing reprisal or need additional assistance in ensuring that the problems they identified are addressed. Assistance can include legal representation to assert whistleblower protection rights and address reprisal, litigation to address the problems disclosed, and developing reform campaigns, which may involve strategies such as collaborating with journalists, partnering with other non-profit organizations, or engaging with key congressional or agency staff to catalyze oversight investigations or hearings.
Finally, we often partner with NGOs, journalists, and other organizations that work with employee sources of information that need advice on how to best use evidence of wrongdoing while ensuring that the whistleblower is protected from retaliation.
- Cases involving small-scale issues that do not rise to a level of serious, broad public interest concern.
- Cases that involve section 8 housing fraud
- Cases that would come before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If your case falls into that category—meaning it exclusively concerns employment discrimination based on age, sex, religion, race, or disability, or it concerns retaliation for filing an EEO complaint—the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) hosts a resource for finding attorneys who represent employees in employment cases: http://exchange.nela.org/network/findalawyer.
- Cases involving denial of employment benefits, such as unemployment or workers’ compensation, unless those denials are possible reprisal related to whistleblowing activity. Attorneys who specialize in these cases can also be found at http://exchange.nela.org/network/findalawyer.
- Cases on behalf of scam victims. If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, instructions for filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission can be found here: https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc. If the suspected scam involved someone impersonating an IRS agent, you can find instructions for filing a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/scam-phone-calls-continue-irs-identifies-five-easy-ways-to-spot-suspicious-calls. Contacting local law enforcement through a non-emergency phone number may also be appropriate.
Unfortunately, there are many cases that involve government or corporate wrongdoing that Government Accountability Project is simply unable to handle. We receive hundreds of requests for help each year, and due to limited capacity, we cannot accept all cases, even if they may be consistent with our mission. If we do not accept your case, that does not mean it does not have legal or factual merit. When possible, we offer referrals to experienced whistleblower attorneys or other organizations that may be able to help.
Government Accountability Project represents its clients at a greatly reduced public interest rate. In the event that a client is unemployed and without resources, representation is offered pro bono until the client is again employed. If representation on a claim of whistleblower reprisal advances to the stage of active litigation, we ask clients to pay for litigation costs based on their financial capacity to cover such costs, which are typically reimbursable if you prevail or settle a whistleblower retaliation claim.
The security of your information is paramount to us. To protect your privacy, we use industry-standard Secure Sockets Layer technology to safeguard data. We further promote security by not accepting documents at the intake application stage of reviewing requests for assistance. If we need documentation to adequately understand your situation or if we decide to move forward with legal or advocacy support, we will work with you directly to maintain the degree of security needed.
Further, any communication by parties seeking to report wrongdoing is made in the strictest confidence. No names, content, or related issues will be shared with any outside party, agency, or company without consent. Government Accountability Project has fought and prevailed for this specific right against two subpoenas in federal court that would have required revealing names—one in a case involving the Department of Justice and the other against Food Lion, Inc. See United States v. Garde, 673 F. Supp. 604, 606 (D.D.C. 1987), app. dism., 848 F.2d 1037 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
Moreover, the confidentiality rules that govern attorney-client relationships extend to the attorney-prospective client relationship. As an applicant for services, you will be a prospective client, so communications with Government Accountability Project will be protected by the attorney-client privilege and insulated from efforts to compel disclosure. (For more information, see the ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.18, Duties to Prospective Clients)
For those particularly concerned about secure and confidential communications, we recommend that you download the Tor Browser. Tor software protects your privacy by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: It prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked. You can download the Tor Browser, which is free, here.
No. We will let you know if we require additional information and will provide you with instructions for transmitting sensitive documents securely. In the event you submit an unsolicited hard copy or electronic document, Government Accountability Project retains the right to dispose of and destroy such material, and will not be responsible for its return to the sender.
Any legal claim you may have is subject to a filing deadline or statute of limitations – some may be as short as 30 days, others as long as three years. The deadlines may be different depending on who violated your rights and which rights were violated. For some kinds of violations, you may need to file a claim with a government agency before you can sue, and these agencies have their own deadlines. If you do not comply with the applicable statute of limitations, you may be legally barred from pursuing your claim in court.
As an applicant, you are responsible for understanding the deadlines associated with your case, and Government Accountability Project is not responsible for alerting you that a deadline is approaching during the application process. To protect your rights, please consult an attorney promptly to find out what deadline may apply in your case.