Washington DC Whistleblower Protection Act
The attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm have substantial experience litigating high-profile retaliation claims under the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). In 2009, The Employment Law Group® secured a jury verdict of over $282,000 on behalf of a former program director who blew the whistle on fraud in a federally-funded education program. This is one of the largest awards under the D.C. WPA.
What laws protect Whistleblowers employed by D.C. Government Agencies or Contractors?
The D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) forbids a supervisor from retaliating or threatening to retaliate against an employee of the D.C. government or an employee of a D.C. government contractor because of the employee’s protected disclosure or refusal to comply with an illegal order. Employees who suffer retaliation because of their protected disclosures or refusal to obey illegal orders may bring a cause of action in the D.C. Superior Court within one year of the prohibited personnel action.
What activities are protected?
For employees in the public sector, “protected disclosure” means any disclosure of information not specifically prohibited by statute, by any employee to a supervisor or a public body that the employee reasonably believes evidences:
- Gross mismanagement;
- Gross misuse or waste of public resources or funds;
- Abuse of authority in connection with the administration of a public program or the execution of a public contract;
- A violation of any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation;
- A violation of any significant contractual terms between the District government and a District government contractor; or
- A substantial and specific danger to the public health, safety, or protection of the environment.
To prevail in a WPA case, an employee must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that his refusal to comply with an illegal order or his protected disclosure was a contributing factor to an employing agency’s decision to take a prohibited personnel action.
What is the employer’s burden of proof?
If a plaintiff successfully proves by a preponderance of the evidence that his protected activity was a contributing factor in the employer’s decision to take prohibited personnel action, the employing agency must prove by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the personnel action if the employee had not engaged in protected conduct.
What can a prevailing plaintiff recover?
The WPA authorizes injunctive relief, reinstatement, restoration of lost benefits, back pay for lost wages, compensatory damages, and litigation costs including attorney’s fees, to a prevailing employee.
What are the District Employee’s rights under the WPA?
District employees have the right to:
- Freely express opinions on public issues;
- Communicate with members of D.C. Council;
- Assemble in public places to discuss matters of personal and public interest;
- Humane, dignified, and reasonable conditions of employment; and
- Individual privacy.
What are the responsibilities of District Employees, Supervisors, and Agencies under the WPA?
Supervisors and employees are obligated to disclose illegal activity as soon as they become aware of such activity. If a supervisor fails to disclose such activity, the supervisor will be subject to disciplinary action. Additionally, if a supervisor retaliates against an employee because an employee engaged in protected conduct, the agency must take disciplinary action against the supervisor.
What should I do if I am thinking about blowing the whistle or believe I have been retaliated against?
Keep a detailed log of your employer’s actions and statements relating to any kind of retaliation, and contact the employment attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm at 1-888-826-5260 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your potential claim.