June 16, 2020

Wyden Co-sponsors Legislation Ensuring Protection For Whistleblowers Who Expose Waste, Fraud, Abuse in Federal COVID-19 Relief Effort

Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today announced he is co-sponsoring legislation that would ensure whistleblower protections for people who expose misuse of government funds intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whistleblowers play a key role in sounding the alarm whenever there’s wrongdoing by scam artists and cheaters scheming to cover up their tracks,” Wyden said. “This bill extends essential whistleblower protections to non-federal employees who report waste, fraud and abuse in coronavirus-related spending that’s diverted from its intended recipients – the frontline workers and small businesses who need those resources during this economic and public health crisis.”

In addition to Wyden, other Senate co-sponsors of the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act introduced by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) are are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The legislation would achieve the following: 

·       Institutes strong whistleblower protections for employees or former employees of recipients of funds under the CARES Act or other similar legislation meant to address COVID-19. 

·       Protects disclosures related to relief funds that stand as evidence of gross mismanagement or waste, danger to public health or safety, abuse of authority, or violation of law, rule or regulation.

·       Creates a legal framework that provides administrative relief in which the Department of Labor can investigate whistleblower retaliation claims from non-federal employees or contractors under a strengthened legal framework. 

·       If administrative relief is not timely provided, whistleblowers will have access to jury trials in federal court, a best practice standard for modern whistleblower protection laws.

·       Protects whistleblower confidentiality and protects against gag orders.

The bill is endorsed by American Civil Liberties Union, ACORN 8, Government Accountability Project, National Whistleblower Center, Public Citizen, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Project on Government Oversight, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, and Whistleblowers of America.

Bill text is here.

A one-page summary of the bill is here.