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OSC issues memos on whistleblower protections

Federal employers and employees in New Mexico should be aware that the Office of Special Counsel has issued three new memos regarding whistleblower policies and guidance. The memos were released on Feb. 1.

The first memo issues a reminder to federal agencies that they must update their training and education programs to reflect new requirements outlined in the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. The law provides new retaliation protections for federal whistleblowers who report abuse, fraud and waste. It also mandates that agencies increase awareness of the whistleblower protections available to federal employees and increase disciplinary measures against supervisors who attempt to retaliate against whistleblowers.

The second memo encourages federal agencies to update their non-disclosure policies, agreements and forms to comply with statutory whistleblower protections. The third memo updates one from 2012 that provided legal guidance for agencies to consider when assessing their monitoring practices for employee communications. A representative from the OSC said that the newly enacted whistleblower protections will help federal agencies use tax dollars more responsibly.

Private employees are also protected from employer retaliation under several federal laws. Examples of retaliation could include harassment, a denial of a promotion, wrongful termination, exclusion from meetings, a suspension without pay, a negative performance review, a reassignment of duties, or a refusal to give a reference. People who experience these or other forms of retaliation may find relief by discussing their case with an employment law attorney. Legal counsel could assess the whistleblower's case and, if warranted, help file a lawsuit against the employer seeking appropriate damages.

Source: FedSmith, "OSC Issues New Whistleblower Protection Guidelines to Agencies", Ian Smith, Feb. 6, 2018

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