Legislation was introduced earlier this week that would extend whistleblower protections to employees who provide information to the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding criminal antitrust violations. Introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (S. 3462) (pdf) would amend the Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act of 2004 by adding a new section on whistleblower protections for employees, contractors, subcontractors, and employer agents.

Specifically, the bill would make it unlawful for an employer to “discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against a whistleblower in the terms and conditions of employment” because the individual provides to the DOJ information about an act or omission that he or she reasonably believes violates an antitrust law or other criminal law committed in conjunction with the potential antitrust law violation. The bill would also protect any individual who participates or assists in an investigation or proceeding regarding an antitrust violation. The whistleblower protections would not apply to an individual who planned and initiated the antitrust law breach or other criminal law violation committed along with the antitrust violation.

An aggrieved employee or contractor would have the opportunity to file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, and would be entitled, if the claim is successful, to reinstatement, back pay with interest, and any other compensation for special damages incurred as a result of the whistleblower discrimination. If the Secretary does not issue a final decision within 180 days of the filing of the complaint, the whistleblower would be able to file suit in federal district court. The protections afforded by this bill are modeled on similar whistleblower laws currently in effect.

In a press release, Sen. Grassley said:

Chairman Leahy and I worked together ten years ago to establish whistleblower protections for private sector employees as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley reform effort. We updated those provisions three years ago, and today’s initiative is a further extension of our efforts. The legislation recognizes the value of whistleblowers that are willing to come forward with information about criminal antitrust violations in the private sector.

According to the press release, the bill is based on recommendations in a July 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office that found widespread support for anti-retaliatory protection in criminal antitrust cases.

This bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.