The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the new so-called stimulus law spawned by President Obama’s economic stimulus plan, protects non-federal employees from blowing the whistle on employers who misuse or waste the federal funds provided under the Act.
More specifically, Section 1553 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides whistleblower retaliation protection to non-federal employees, for reporting the following types of stimulus fund violations to the proper authorities.
- Gross mismanagement of an agency contract or grant relating to covered funds
- A gross waste of covered funds
- A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety related to the implementation or use of covered funds
- An abuse of authority related to the implementation or use of covered funds or
- A violation of law, rule, or regulation related to an agency contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant, awarded or issued relating to covered funds
Non-federal employees may report employer stimulus fund violations with whistleblower immunity, to any one of the following proper authorities.
- Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board
- The inspector general of the agency that dispersed the funds
- The U.S. Comptroller General
- A congressional representative or senator
- A state or federal regulatory or law enforcement agency
- A court (such as a U.S. district court) or grand jury
- A person with supervisory authority over the employee (or such other person working for the employer who has the authority to investigate, discover or terminate misconduct)
- Or a representative of same
Should an employer retaliate against a non-federal employee for reporting one of the violations above, then the employee may submit a reprisal complaint to the appropriate inspector general for investigation.
If the inspector general finds that the employer’s reprisal was in violation of stimulus whistleblower protections, then the employee is entitled to the following relief.
- Job reinstatement plus back pay and benefits, if appropriate
- Compensatory damages
- Reimbursement of attorney fees and other legal costs
Under certain circumstances, an employee may sue for stimulus whistleblower reprisal relief in a U.S. district court, as long as he or she did not submit a complaint in bad faith.
Employers receiving covered funds must post a notice of stimulus whistleblower rights and remedies. Rights and remedies may not be waived, except in the case of a collective bargaining agreement that requires an arbitrator to resolve disputes arising under the agreement.