The basic components of a whistleblower case

As the name implies, a whistleblower is someone who publicly discloses the criminal activity or other misconduct of their employer without their employer’s consent. In most cases, the act of blowing the whistle is dangerous for an employee, as they have put their employer in the spotlight in a negative way. Because of this, there are measures in place to protect the whistleblower if they encounter retaliation as a result of the whistleblower activity.

However, whistleblower protections vary widely based on the type of activity, your employer and where you live. There is no general definition or universal list of whistleblower activity that is protected, and sometimes the measures could be difficult to overcome. For example, the statute of limitations in most whistleblower cases begins when an employee learns that they will be retaliated against, rather than when they are actually retaliated against. In some federal whistleblower statutes, the statute of limitations is as little as 30 days.

In any case, for the whistleblower, the main component of his or her case against their employer calls for proof that they were retaliated against as a result of his or her whistleblower activity. In addition, the case should take into account things such as the statute of limitations for the activity and what sort of damages can be recovered from the employer as a result of the case.

With the vague, difficult and sometimes dangerous nature of whistleblower activity, consultation with an attorney as soon as possible is highly recommended to discuss your rights and ensure as much as protection as possible from the employer’s possible retaliation.

Avoiding nepotism in government positions

Nepotism is common in the private sector – especially among small, family-run businesses. But in government jobs, it’s a conflict of interest that could derail your career.

Nepotism in any form is prohibited among federal employees, and for good reason. The government has an obligation to maintain competitive, open and merit-based personnel practices. Nepotism unfairly shuts out qualified applicants and creates hurdles that shouldn’t exist. As a type of corruption, it’s not only unethical but also illegal, and it can be a criminal offense.

The sometimes blurry boundaries of nepotism

What exactly is nepotism? In the context of the government, it’s any favorable treatment toward relatives that compromises fairness, integrity and neutrality.

Nepotism commonly arises in the employment process. However, it isn’t limited to hiring. It can also come up in contracting, reviewing, inspecting and other dealings with third parties.

While nepotism is more frequent in entry-level government positions, it sometimes extends to higher-level officers. For example, the former director of a government contracting division was recently indicted on fraud charges involving nepotism. She allegedly pressured a contracting company to hire her husband, brother, sister-in-law and father – all for comfortable salaries.

Navigating gray areas

Nepotism isn’t always obvious, and it isn’t always done with bad intentions. Government employees might cross into a gray area when they express interest in a vacant position on behalf of a relative they believe is well-qualified. Moreover, just because a highly credentialed applicant has a relative working in the same agency shouldn’t mean that person is ineligible.

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has provided general guidance on how to navigate these sticky situations. The MSPB urges employees to always err on the side of honesty and transparency. Employees should disclose potential conflicts to the appropriate ethics office and recuse themselves when needed.

Yet these standards aren’t always clear-cut. For example, there is no consistent guidance on when an optional disclosure form should be used to identify whether job applicants have relatives in the same agency. And even those who follow the MSPB’s guidelines could come under fire later. As attorney Alan Lescht noted in a recent article, employees might submit full disclosures and maintain total transparency, yet these could still get overlooked in the shuffle of bureaucracy.

Steering clear of impropriety with big changes ahead

Ongoing training and more detailed guidance are essential for helping federal employees steer clear of impropriety. As the change in our nation’s presidential administration approaches – bringing massive staff turnovers and thousands of new appointment opportunities – the need for straightforward, easy-to-follow procedures will intensify.

The bottom line: Transparency shouldn’t be difficult to attain for employees, officers, managers and other government personnel.

How a Trump victory could affect federal employees: Fewer rights, less job security and potentially 20,000-plus layoffs

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is well known for his “Your fired!” catchphrase from the reality TV show The Apprentice. He would live up to that slogan by making it easier to fire federal employees if he gets elected in November.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who heads Trump’s White House transition team, told the press that Trump believes the process for firing civil servants takes too long and involves too many hurdles. Trump’s administration cited concerns that Obama would convert political appointees to civil servants, granting them greater job security and equal pay rights.

Employment rights for civil servants: Rooted not just in the law, but also in the Constitution

Government employees have due process rights when it comes to losing their jobs. These rights – which are rooted in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – include a requirement for just cause and an opportunity to challenge the firing.

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) further outlines the procedures for firing, disciplining and demoting federal employees. Passed several years after the Watergate Scandal, this law established the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board. Both agencies play important roles in protecting the rights of federal employees.

Big changes for federal employees if Trump gains the White House

It’s unclear how, exactly, Trump would change existing federal employment procedures. However, Trump’s previously announced policies would impact government employees in key ways:

Although the details of these proposals have yet to be outlined, one thing is clear: A Trump victory in the November election would have a major impact on federal employees at all levels.