What Type of Disclosure is Protected Under Whistleblower Protection Law?

Protected whistleblower disclosures under 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8) include "reasonable belief" there is: 

  • Violation of any law, rule, or regulation 
  • Gross mismanagement: substantial risk of significant adverse impact on mission 
  • Gross waste of funds: significantly out of proportion to benefit/more than debatable 
  • Abuse of authority: an arbitrary decision for personal gain and/or to injure others 
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety 

"Reasonable belief" means: 

  • Could a disinterested observer with knowledge of the essential facts known to and readily ascertainable by the employee or applicant reasonably conclude that the actions of the agency official evidence such violations, mismanagement, waste, abuse, or danger? 
  • Excludes: rumors, speculation, nonspecific allegations (e.g., "harassment," or "fraud") 

The legal definition of "disclosure":

A "disclosure" under the law (5 U.S.C. § 2302(a)(1)(D)) means a formal or informal communication or transmission, but does not include a communication concerning policy decisions that lawfully exercise discretionary authority unless the employee or applicant providing the disclosure reasonably believes that the disclosures evidences--

(i) any violation of any law, rule, or regulation; or 

(ii) gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. 

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