Pilot Program for Enhancement of Employee Whistleblower Protections

In order to encourage employees to report fraud, waste, and abuse in federally-funded programs, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013[1] established a pilot program for enhancing contractor employee whistleblower protections. These protections extend to all individuals working in federally-funded programs, including sponsored research.

As an employee of the University of Nebraska working on a federally-sponsored research project, you are entitled to the rights and remedies provided by the pilot program. Specifically, the University of Nebraska is prohibited from discharging, demoting, or otherwise discriminating against you as a reprisal for whistleblowing.[2] These protections cannot be waived by any agreement, policy, form, or condition of employment.

Whistleblowing is defined as disclosing information that you reasonably believe is evidence of any of the following:

  • Gross mismanagement of a federal contract or grant;
  • Gross waste of federal funds;
  • Abuse of authority relating to a federal contract or grant;
  • A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or
  • A violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract or grant (including the competition for, or negotiation of, a contract or grant).[3]

In order to qualify for whistleblower protection under the pilot program, your disclosure must be made to one of the following persons or entities:

  • A member of Congress or a representative of a congressional committee;
  • An Inspector General that has oversight over contracts awarded for, or on behalf of, the federal agency concerned in the contract or grant;
  • The Government Accountability Office;
  • A federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant agency;
  • An authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency;
  • A court or grand jury; or
  • A management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct.[4]

If you believe that you have been discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as a reprisal for whistleblowing related to a federal contract or grant, you may submit a complaint to the Inspector General of the agency concerned.[5] Procedures for making disclosures can be found on the Office of the Inspector General’s Whistleblower Hotline (http://www.oig.doc.gov/pages/hotline.aspx). Keep in mind that you cannot file a complaint more than three years after the date on which the alleged reprisal took place.[6]

More information may be found at: http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:41%20section:4712%20edition:prelim)

If you have questions, please contact Jeanne Wicks, jwicks2@unl.edu.

[1] Pub. L. 112-239.
[2] 48 C.F.R. 3.908-3(a).
[3] 48 C.F.R. 3.908-3(a).
[4] 48 C.F.R. 3.908-3(b).
[5] 48 C.F.R. 3.908-4.
[6] 48 C.F.R. 3.908-4.