Legislative Initiatives

Government Accountability Project has drafted, spearheaded the campaigns to pass, or helped defend all the federal whistleblower protection laws that exist today. We have unique expertise, earned over 40 years, in minimizing the risk and maximizing the effectiveness of whistleblowing. 

Current Legislative Priorities

Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act: This legislation led by House Committee on Oversight and Reform (COR) Chair Carol Maloney is our highest priority. It would give civil service workers best practice rights by acting on the hottest issues that were skipped to pass the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. America’s Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) has fallen far behind corporate and international standards. The three most significant changes needed to modernize this law are court access to seek justice from a jury if there is no timely administrative ruling; protection against retaliatory investigations as soon as they are opened; and realistic legal standards to get temporary relief, essential when final decisions take years. Numerous bread and butter advances include more realistic remedies for whistleblowers when they win, closing WPA coverage loopholes and providing attorney fees for court representation. The House already has voted for these rights in the Protect Our Democracy Act. (PODA) Federal whistleblowers challenge America’s most significant abuses of power. They shouldn’t have America’s weakest whistleblower rights of this century.  

The WPIA: 

  • protects whistleblowers from retaliatory investigations, 
  • provides a timely opportunity to obtain temporary relief, 
  • strengthens channels to communicate with Congress, 
  • details standards for protection of whistleblowers’ confidentiality, 
  • restores accountability for Offices of Inspector General (OIG’s), necessary because a loophole has rendered unenforceable the Office of Special Counsels orders to investigate abuses by OIG’s. 
  • closes loopholes that deny WPA coverage for non-career Senior Executive Service and Public Health Service employees, 
  • closes loopholes that mean whistleblowers still are not made whole and lose when they “win’ their cases, 
  • expands attorney fees to cover court representation, and 
  • creates due process rights to challenge violations of the WPA’s anti-gag provisions. 

Department of Energy Nuclear Regulatory Commission Whistleblower Act: Currently we are trying to strengthen nuclear safety through legislation for stronger anti-retaliation rights. This bipartisan bill led by Senator Tammy Duckworth would restore court success and jury trials against retaliation that in 2005 Congress enacted for NRC and DOE whistleblowers in Energy Policy Act amendments.  By law it would waive a sovereign immunity legal technicality that has blocked court access.

Within Congress there is bi-partisan sponsorship in support of the necessary amendments from Democratic Senators Duckworth and Wyden, along with Republican Senators Grassley and Lankford. We are optimistic about success since the bill accomplishes what Congress decided to do 15 years ago. It has a rare bipartisan base. The Department of Energy withdrew objections that blocked passage last year. There were no objections at a legislative hearing on bills slated for the next markup committee approval vote. If the bill gets through the Senate, sponsors have an informal commitment from House Majority Leader Hoyer to put it on the “suspension calendar” for immediate vote.  

COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act: This legislation led by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Jackie Speier would modernize rights for over 5 million government contractors, not just those receiving pandemic funds. It would add protection for state and local employees, contractors as well as employees, and international contractor whistleblowing. It also would tighten confidentiality protections and expand anti-retaliation rights beyond workplace harassment with a whistleblower affirmative defense against civil or criminal liability.  

Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement Act: This legislation, led by Rep, Gerald Connolly, is a second bite at the apple for those seeking to challenge police abuses of power by creating a legally safe channel for truth-telling through best practice whistleblower protection rights that would shield all who provide evidence. This would include law enforcement officers, local and federal victims of crimes, and citizen witnesses. In addition to best practice confidentiality protection and court access for jury trials, it also would provide a whistleblower defense against civil or criminal liability. A common tactic against police officers who blow the whistle is to accuse them of wrongdoing and frivolously prosecute them.

If made into law, the Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement Act would:   

  • Establish an independent Special Inspector General for Law Enforcement (SIGLE) to investigate law enforcement illegality or misconduct;  
  • Create a reporting schedule to Congress on a quarterly basis of its activities, including recommendations and agency responses, and an annual basis on the total number of use of deadly force cases, use of excessive force complaints, and findings of misconduct involving federal law enforcement officers as well as whistleblower discrimination and retaliation;  
  • Provide best practice whistleblower and confidentiality rights not only for law enforcement officers, but for citizens, government employees, contractors or any other witnesses who make a protection disclosure to the SIGLE; and  
  • Give individuals who face discrimination because of their disclosure the ability to sue for damages. 

Amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act: The proposed amendment would: protect government contractors and grantees (the companies and employees) who blow the whistle from retaliation; close the loopholes for those working in foreign locations as well as state and local employees; add protections against blocklisting; and bolster confidentiality protections. 

Dodd-Frank Act: After a Supreme Court decision that canceled protection for internal whistleblowing in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, Government Accountability Project proposed amendments to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations so that in-house disclosures would be an alternative to reporting directly to the Commission. An amendment to the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 was introduced in the House. Government Accountability Project is also working on a companion bill in the Senate which would reform parts of the Dodd-Frank Act, including lowering the threshold for award eligibility, an anti-retaliation section to cover government employees, covering duty speech, and matching the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) anti-retaliation protections which include burden of proof, anti-gag protection, option for an administrative hearing, and other remedies. 

European Union Whistleblower Directive: The European Union Whistleblower Directive is a landmark for freedom of speech. The Directive helps more people and institutions than most whistleblower laws. In addition to employees, it protects unions, civil society organizations or persons assisting or associated with them, companies where they work, shareholders, suppliers, consultants and the self-employed. 

Core provisions of the agreement include:  

  • Scope of dissent – Protection for whistleblowers to challenge violations or abuse of authority that undermine EU laws. 
  • Legally safe audiences – Protection for whistleblowers who contact government authorities without first making internal disclosures, and the right to go directly to the media if they reasonably believe their disclosure concerns severe threats to the public, or if they reasonably believe the destruction of the evidence or retaliation against them is imminent. 
  • Mandatory whistleblower offices – A requirement that all companies with over 50 employees and towns with over 10,000 citizens set up official whistleblower offices to receive whistleblower disclosures. 
  • Temporary relief –– Whistleblowers may seek interim relief while their case is pending. 
  • “Make whole” remedy – Final relief that eliminates all prejudice to the whistleblower. 
  • Transparency – Nations are required to report on how whistleblowing disclosures have made a difference. 

Additional Legislative Initiatives

Congressional Accountability Act: As part of the Make It Safe Coalition, we are working to update the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to extend the whistleblower protections that are available to certain executive branch employees to legislative branch employees. 

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Whistleblower Act 2021: The purpose of this bill is to provide incentives for and protect whistleblowers under the authority of the Federal Trade Commission. This Act will provide best practices for whistleblower protection routinely passed by Congress in the last two decades and provide incentives for whistleblowers based on recoveries stemming from original information provided by the whistleblower to the Commission.

House Whistleblower Ombudsman Office: We successfully advocated for the establishment of the House Whistleblower Ombudsman Office, and the 116th Congress established the office. Watch Senior Legal and International Analyst Samantha Feinstein testify before the House Appropriations Legislation Subcommittee on the importance of a whistleblower ombudsman office or read her testimony.  

Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) Reauthorization Act: When the act was introduced into the House, Government Accountability Project worked closely to achieve three primary legislative goals – jury trials, protection against retaliatory investigations, and realistic burdens of proof for employees to obtain stays – along with seven other recommendations. Nine out of the ten recommendations were accepted. 

No Disrupting Accountability (NDA) Act: Government Accountability Project is working with House sponsors on language that will strengthen existing anti-gag protections, extend due process challenge rights against gag orders including a WPA Individual Right of Action and access to court, and provide remedies that will help enforce salary cutoff penalties for gagging congressional communications. 

Protect America’s Workers Act: Government Accountability Project reintroduced and is supporting this ongoing effort to modernize occupational safety whistleblower protection. 

Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) Whistleblower Protection Act of 2019: This bill would establish a whistleblower program that is similar to the one created at SEC, where whistleblowers may be incentivized to come forward when they witness violations of specific rules if they are eligible for a reward after the successful completion of a PCAOB disciplinary action. This bill would also provide PCAOB  whistleblowers with protection from retaliation by their employers. 

SEC Whistleblower Reform Act of 2022: The purpose of this bill is to amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to further enhance anti-retaliation protections for whistleblowers. The prohibition of retaliation against whistleblowers is expanded to include individuals who provide information regarding potential violations to supervisors or other.

Whistleblower Protection Reform Act of 2021: This bill expands and revises whistleblower protections applicable to individuals who provide information to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relating to a violation of securities laws.

The prohibition of retaliation against whistleblowers is expanded to include individuals who provide information regarding potential violations to supervisors or other employees in positions of authority, including as part of their job duties.

Additionally, the bill establishes the burden of proof regarding an unfavorable personnel action against a whistleblower, including evidence needed to prove that the whistleblower’s conduct was a contributing factor in such an action. The bill also deems as unenforceable a predispute arbitration agreement regarding such an action and makes additional categories of sanctions eligible for distribution as part of whistleblower awards.