Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., sponsored the measure.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., sponsored the measure. Flickr user Senator Claire McCaskill

Senate Advances Plan to Expand Whistleblower Protections Among Subcontractor Employees

Panel clears McCaskill bill that would make protections permanent.

A key Senate panel on Wednesday approved a bill to extend whistleblower protection to a larger universe of contractors, subcontractors and employees of grant recipients.

Sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., S. 795 would expand and make permanent current whistleblower protections for all federal government grantees, subgrantees and subcontractors. It would also prohibit contractors from being reimbursed for legal fees accrued in their defense against retaliation claims by whistleblowers, McCaskill said, after winning approval from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

 “We have whistleblower protections for employees, but as we all know and understand, the contracting workforce is huge in the federal government,” she said. “This just extends those protections to whistleblowers in contracting forces that are doing the same work, working side-by-side by government employees, but they have not had the protections they deserve.”

Though the government gives out billions in grants to a variety of businesses and organizations, whistleblower protections under current law apply only to contractors, grant recipients, subcontractors, but not to employees of subgrantees.

The bill—which has no House companion so far—would also make permanent existing civilian contractor and grantee whistleblower protections that were part of the 2015 defense authorization bill, which are currently set to expire in two years.