Developments at the OSC: On January 22, 2015, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register (80 Fed.Reg. 3,182-3,184). The Proposed Rule seeks to expand OSC’s whistleblower disclosure program to handle complaints from current and former employees of certain federal government contractors, subcontractors and grantees.
In addition to its more familiar role investigating and prosecuting whistleblower reprisal claims from federal civil service employees, OSC’s jurisdiction includes several other functions, including serving as a designated recipient for disclosures from federal employees who wish to blow the whistle on various forms of fraud and illegality. In a 2013 appropriations bill, Congress passed a whistleblower reprisal protection statute (codified at 41 U.S.C. § 4712) which created a four-year pilot program extending protections similar to the Whistleblower Protection Act to current and former employees of federal contractors, subcontractors and grantees. Claims under 41 U.S.C. § 4712 are administratively investigated by the Office of Inspector General for the relevant agency, with a possibility of judicial review. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks to extend OSC’s whistleblower disclosure jurisdiction to those whistleblower disclosures protected by 41 U.S.C. § 4712. OSC’s proposed rule has certain jurisdictional limits. For example, not every possible disclosure is protected of 41 U.S.C. § 4712, and certain agencies (for example, intelligence agencies and the Postal Service) fall outside of the jurisdiction of 41 U.S.C. § 4712.
Comments on the proposed rule are due by March 23, 2015.
If you are a current or former employee of a federal contractor, subcontractor or grantee and you believe that you are being retaliated against because of protected whistleblowing, please feel free to contact Passman & Kaplan to request an initial consultation.