Follow the Rules Act

On June 14, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Follow the Rules Act, an important extension of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA).

Background

The WPA is a law that protects federal government employees from retaliatory action for disclosing information about dishonest or illegal activities occurring within the federal government. A 2016 Federal Circuit decision interpreting the WPA, Rainey v. Merit Systems Protection Board, held that an employee who refuses to obey an order that would require him to violate a statute is protected from adverse action, but an employee who refuses to obey an order requiring him to violate a rule or regulation is not protected under the WPA.

What protections does the Follow the Rules Act add?

The Follow the Rules Act overturns the Rainey decision, and prohibits agencies from taking personnel actions against employees who refuse orders that would require the employee to violate a law, rule, or regulation.

In introducing the bill last year, Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) gave the following example:

Congress directed the President to promulgate rules and regulations regarding sanctions against North Korea. Without the additional protections of the Follow the Rules Act, federal employees who were directed to violate North Korea sanctions would have no whistleblower protections under the WPA.

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) said of the bill, “we need to do all we can to ensure that federal employees are allowed to perform their jobs free from political pressure to violate laws, rules, and regulations.”

If you have been subjected to an adverse personnel action following a protected disclosure regarding illegal or improper activity, contact us today. We offer results-driven legal services to federal employees around the world.

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.