That’s why I wrote the handbook. Rule four in my book summarizes the best federal laws; rule five summarizes various state protection laws. And at the end of the book, I inserted a checklist of every single whistle-blower law, its jurisdiction and what it covers in the major cases.
What’s another rule that whistle-blowers should remember?
Rule two: Follow the money.
Most whistle-blower cases concern money. Regarding health issues, companies dump toxins in the river not because they’re evil but because it saves money. Government contractors cheat to get lucrative contracts or cut corners on performance to save.
If you can track and prove financial loss in your case, you may qualify for a reward. Since 1987, for instance, under the False Claims Act alone, employees have been given $2.7 billion in rewards for uncovering fraudsters and wasted money.
Is it more dangerous to blow the whistle on the government than a private company?
It is. Federal employees have the least protection from reprisals. Congress has modernized protection laws for private-sector whistle-blowers but has not modernized the laws that would allow federal staffers to blow the whistle on their own patronage.
In the private sector, most laws permit employees who have been fired for blowing the whistle to take their cases to independent judges. But in the federal sector, most whistle-blowers don’t get an independent judge but must appear instead before a board that is appointed by the sitting president. It’s political by nature.
Also, federal employees must prove “gross” waste of funds and “gross” mismanagement to win their cases.
How is “gross” defined?
It’s defined in a way that almost no federal whistle-blower has prevailed since that amendment. The better option is for federal employees to hang their cases on a violation of law. If they can prove the government violated a specific law, they’ll be protected.
Did the Bradley Manning scandal encourage you to write this book?
No, but I do have a few thoughts on his case: I have always been skeptical of WikiLeaks from a whistle-blower’s perspective. Like I said, one of the biggest issues is who you blow to.
Armed service members are permitted under a whistle-blower law to disclose information to Congress. Had Manning taken his information to Congress, there would have been a different outcome.
Are whistle-blowers seen in a negative light?
In the old days, yes, but recent polling has shown a change in attitude. Whistle-blowers score extremely high in public approval ratings, especially with independents who don’t necessarily think along partisan lines.
Why do you think whistle-blowing is so important?
Studies show that whistle-blowers are the No. 1 source of rooting out fraud. Fifty-eight percent of fraud cases are uncovered by employees while law enforcement officials uproot only 4 percent.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.