The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) extended whistleblower protections to employees of federal government contractors and subcontractors. The NDAA not only strengthened existing protections for employees of DOD and NASA contractors, it also authorized a four-year “pilot program” that offers the same protections to employees of contractors working with other agencies. The NDAA forbids retaliation against an employee of a contractor who raises information that is evidence of gross mismanagement of a federal contract, a gross waste of federal funds, or a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract. Additionally, the NDAA expands what constitutes an act of whistleblowing by including disclosure to internal sources (such as to a management official or employee who has the responsibility of investigating misconduct), adding on to the protections available when disclosing to outside sources (such as a member of Congress, law enforcement, a court, or a grand jury). The NDAA also requires contractors to provide their employees with notice in writing of their rights under the NDAA. These whistleblower protections took effect on July 1, 2013, and apply to all contracts modified or awarded on or after that date.
Planning Tip: The expansion of whistleblower protections by the NDAA highlights the need for contractors and subcontractors to have in place robust internal processes to handle complaints made by employees. Having these in place will help encourage internal reporting of alleged misconduct, and will allow contractors to potentially remediate problems before they result in outside investigations or litigation. Contractors should analyze how their compliance programs can be improved, and ensure that best practices are being followed, such as having adequate reporting channels, training supervisors on receiving complaints, responding promptly to complaints, and other practices.