On September 13, 2012, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), along with Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA), introduced the Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6406). This legislation is designed to reduce fraud within the government and save taxpayer dollars by expanding the whistleblower-protections covering to federal contractors, subcontractors and grantees.

In its final report issued to Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated that by 2011, as much as $60 billion had been lost to contractor fraud and waste in America’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The sponsors of the bill believe that in order to prevent such gross waste from continuing, federal contractors and grantees need to report such wrongdoing with federal funds.

According to Rep. Platts, the proposed legislation would provide “meaningful protections for contract workers who have the courage to blow the whistle, at the risk of their own careers, on waste, fraud, and abuse within the government.”

The bill is designed to help facilitate these types of disclosures by providing non-federal employees protection against forms of retaliation, including demotion, discrimination and discharge. Specifically, the legislation sets up a procedure for investigating claims of persons who reported wrongdoing and were subjected to reprisal. Under the proposed procedure, such individuals may submit a complaint regarding the reprisal to the appropriate agency inspector general (“IG”). The IG generally has 180 days to investigate and make a determination on the complaint, and must provide the person alleging the reprisal access to the investigation file. If the IG determines that evidence supports a prohibited reprisal, the claimant’s employer must abate the reprisal, reinstate the employee, or pay the employee the costs incurred in bringing the complaint. In cases where the reprisal was found to be willful or malicious, the employee may receive 10 times the amount of his or her lost wages and other compensatory damages.

The proposed bill has companion legislation (S. 241) in the Senate cosponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Jon Tester (D-MT). The House hopes that its version will receive bipartisan support and will be passed sooner rather than later.