The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a federal law that protects whistleblowers who work for the United States government and want to report illegal, unethical action within their workplace. Specifically, it protects employees from retaliation from their employers: termination, threats, or other unethical action. Any abuse of power within a workplace could constitute as motivation for whistleblowing complaints. This includes misuse of funds, corruption within the establishment, danger to one’s public health or safety, fraud, and gross mismanagement.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the protection offered to employees under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 only applies when their disclosure of information is not related directly to their job’s duties. Because of this clause, the majority of whistleblower complaints made through the government that reach the higher courts are disregarded. This flaw within the law makes filing federal complaints about government agencies can lead to years of gridlock or complete disregard for one’s complaint.
Job-related complaints must go through the bureaucratic hierarchy of superiors in order to gain recognition for government employees, often to no avail. Government employees who wish to blow the whistle on illegal action within their workplace that involves their personal job position will meet a wall of resistance by attempting to complain and take legal action through the United States government. There is a significant benefit to taking legal action another way than through government bureaucracy.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 and Presidential Policy Directive 19 were ordered by President Obama to increase the protection of whistleblowers that had previously been neglected under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Supreme Court. The increases apply specifically to government employees who work within intelligence and national security. Certain options are now more open for those who previously had little protection while working in some of the most sensitive areas of U.S. Government.