The U.S. Department of Energy said it was improving protections for whistleblowers after a July report from the Government Accountability Office featured two employees who claimed they were retaliated against. For its report, the GAO studied 87 whistleblower cases and conducted interviews at multiple job sites. It found that the Energy Department rarely held contractors accountable for illegal retaliation even though it had the means to do so.
In the report, the government also disputed claims that the department couldn’t enforce the prohibition of retaliation against whistleblowers in nuclear safety cases. The GAO pointed out that the department had taken enforcement actions in the past. In response, the DOE said that it would inform contractors and subcontractors that civil penalties could be enforced against those who engage in retaliation against employees.
The agency is also working to strengthen the Employee Concerns Program, which was designed to resolve conflicts in an alternative setting. The goal was to discuss issues without the need to involve supervisors or others with potential conflicts of interest. General counsel for the DOE said that it was working to implement the Whistleblower Protection Pilot Program to prevent such retaliation. Furthermore, he said that the department had a procedure in place to investigate claims made by employees who felt mistreated by supervisors.
Whistleblowers who have been terminated may wish to talk with an attorney. Legal counsel may be able to gather evidence of retaliation such as poor performance reviews, a change in hours or other questionable decisions made directly after a concern was raised to an employer. If successful, a worker may be entitled to back pay and other damages.