United States Senate bill, S.241 on the table this year proposes to expand the whistleblower protections of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (known as the McCaskill Amendment of the Act) to employees of employers who receive any federal funds—not just stimulus funds. The McCaskill Amendment protects employees of private contractors and state and local governments who report gross mismanagement, gross waste, public safety issues, abuse of authority, or violation of law in the implementation of stimulus funds. Importantly, the amendment protects employees’ internal disclosures to supervisors as well as to third parties such as a member of Congress.
As it stands now in regards to non-stimulus funds, federal law protects employees of contractors from disclosing to a Member of Congress or an authorized official of an executive agency or the Department of Justice information relating to a substantial violation of law related to a contract. In contrast, therefore, to situations involving stimulus funds, when non-stimulus money is involved employees’ internal reports and reports of gross mismanagement, gross waste, etc. are not currently protected, and employees of state and local government are not explicitly covered. The new bill, again sponsored by Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, proposes to extend the more employee-friendly whistleblower protections of the McCaskill Amendment to non-stimulus funds and clarifies that state and municipal employees are protected.
Employers that accept federal money or are awarded contracts using federal money should take notice of this bill, which is currently under committee review, and be prepared to adapt internal complaint procedures to a potential influx of employee reports.