Whistleblower Protection Laws: Employees of Contractors, Grantees, and Personal Services Contractors

On December 14, 2016, Congress made permanent a 4-year pilot program to further protect employees of federal contractors, subcontractors, grantees, and sub-grantees, as well as personal service contractors, from reprisal concerning protected disclosures about Federal contracts or grants. 41 U.S.C. 4712

Under this law, employees of Government contractors, subcontractors, grantees, and subgrantees—as well as personal services contractors—who make a protected disclosure about a Federal grant or contract cannot be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as long as they reasonably believe the information they disclose is evidence of:

Gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant.

  1. Waste of Federal funds.
  2. Abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant.
  3. Substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.
  4. Violations of any law, rule, or regulation related to a Federal contract or grant.

Protected Disclosures Defined

“Protected disclosures” means information shared with any of the following authorities:

  • An inspector general.
  • The Government Accountability Office.
  • Members of Congress or representatives of congressional committees.
  • A Federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management.
  • An authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency.
  • A court or grand jury.
  • A manager or other employee of the contractor, grantee, or personal services contractor who has responsibility for investigating, discovering, or addressing misconduct.

How To File Whistleblower Reprisal Complaints

Protected employees may file reprisal complaints through the OIG Hotline. These employees have 3 years from the date of the alleged retaliatory action to file a reprisal complaint. Information on OIG Hotline procedures may be found on the Report Fraud page.

Caution: The Office of Special Counsel, which has authority to examine cases of whistleblower retaliation against direct-hire Federal employees, does not have jurisdiction over case retaliation relating to employees of Federal contractors, grantees, or personal services contractors.

Investigating Whistleblower Retaliation Complaints From Protected Employees

The Office of Inspector General has jurisdiction to investigate any allegations by employees of Federal contractors, grantees, or personal services contractors of retaliation for making a protected disclosure. Within 180 days of receipt of a complaint, or within any extension period up to 180 days as agreed to with the complainant, OIG will do one of the following:

  • Investigate the complaint and submit a report of findings to the USAID Administrator, the person who submitted the complaint, and the person’s employer.
  • Dismiss the complaint after determining that it is frivolous, fails to allege a violation of the whistleblower protection law, or has already been addressed in another judicial or administrative proceeding initiated by the complainant.

The Administrator will review any report OIG submits and determine whether there is sufficient basis to conclude that the contractor or subcontractor has subjected the employee to a prohibited reprisal. The Administrator will issue an order within 30 days of receipt of the report, either denying relief or directing one or more of the following corrective actions:

  • Order the contractor or subcontractor to take affirmative action to abate the reprisal.
  • Order the contractor or subcontractor to reinstate the complainant to the position held before the reprisal, providing compensatory damages (including back pay) and employment benefits, and otherwise meeting the terms and conditions of employment that would apply if the reprisal had not been taken.
  • Order the contractor or subcontractor to pay the complainant an amount equal to the aggregate amount of all costs and expenses (including attorneys’ fees and expert witnesses’ fees) that the Administrator determines were reasonably incurred by the complainant for, or in connection with, bringing the complaint, as determined by the Administrator.

If the Administrator denies relief or if no action has been taken within 210 days of receipt of the complaint (or 30 days following expiration of any extension agreed to between OIG and the complainant), the complainant may bring an action in an appropriate U.S. district court against his or her employer as described under 41 U.S.C. section 4712.

If the Administrator orders a corrective action and the contractor or subcontractor fails to comply, the Administrator will file an action for enforcement in the appropriate U.S. district court. The complainant may also file or join such an action seeking enforcement of an order.