Most legal claims have time limits

Federal Whistleblower Laws

This chart is meant to call attention to the types of claims that employees should investigate. It is also meant to urge them to consult a lawyer to assess each claim before the time limits expire. "SOL" means "statute of limitations." It is the time limit to file a legal action. This chart is not updated on any regular basis, and it is not meant to establish an attorney-client relationship. Only by retaining an attorney can employees get answers they can legally rely on.

So, do not rely upon this table for legal advice. This summary table is provided for information only and to assist attorneys in legal research. It is not warranted to be accurate in any respect. This table cannot replace the need for independent research or legal advice regarding where, when, and how your claim can be brought. Further, the statutes of limitations herein may not apply to your case or situation, may no longer be applicable, and, like any employment-related law, are always subject to change at any time, by act of Congress, agency practice, the courts, or changing facts in the case itself. Thank you to Ann Lugbill for initiating the collection of the information on this page.

News Flash: New MAP-21 and NDAA laws, and ACA rules

In 2012, Congress created a new whistleblower protection in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), P.L. 112-14 (Enacted July 6, 2012), codified at 49 U.S.C. 30171. MAP-21 protects the employees of motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, or dealerships when they raise concerns about defects or other noncompliance with the safety, reporting and notification requirements. This Act fills an important hole left by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, 15 U.S.C. § 2087; 29 C.F.R. Part 1983. Since auto safety is regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and not the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the CPSIA protection offered nothing to auto safety whistleblowers.2 Now MAP-21 provides that protection. Under MAP-21, the time limit to file an initial retaliation claim is 180 days. Once an employee shows the protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action, the employer can prevail only with clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same action without the protected activity. Once a case has been pending at the Department of Labor for 210 days without a final order, and the complainant has not caused that delay through bad faith, the complainant may file a civil action in U.S. District Court, and may demand a jury trial. MAP-21 does not provide for any punitive damages, and does not provide any protection from forced arbitration agreements. If a complainant files a frivolous claim, the Department of Labor may order reverse attorney's fees of up to $1,000.

On the first business day of 2013, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA FY13), Public Law No. 112-239. Section 827 makes some improvements to the protection for employees of military contractors, 10 U.S.C. Section 2409, and expands this provision to include NASA contractors. It sets a two-year statute of limitations. Section 828 creates a new whistleblower protection for employees of federal contractors (except those in the intelligence community). Effective July 1, 2013, whistleblowers can file complaints with the Inspector General of the agency involved within three (3) years of the adverse action.

On February 27, 2013, OSHA issued interim final rules for handling whistleblower complaints under Section 1558 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). See 29 C.F.R. Part 1984; 78 FR 13222. This section amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to add section 18C, 29 U.S.C. 218C. The law now protects employees from retaliation by an employer for qualifying for an Obamacare subsidy (and thus exposing the employer to a tax penalty). OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program (DWPP) explains that certain large employers who fail to offer affordable plans that meet the minimum value may be assessed a tax penalty if any of their full-time employees receive a premium tax credit through the Exchange. Thus, the relationship between the employee’s receipt of a credit and the potential tax penalty imposed on an employer could create an incentive for an employer to retaliate against an employee. Section 18C protects employees against such retaliation. It also protects employees who raise concerns about compliance with the insurance provisions of the ACA. The time limit to file complaints with OSHA is 180 days.

Whistleblower or Retaliation Statute

Legal Citation

Statute of Limitations (SOL)

Where to File

First Amendment

U.S. Const., 1st Am.

State PI limit

state or fed ct.

Civil Rights Act of 1871

42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985

State PI limit

state or fed ct.

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

29 U.S.C. § 218C; Section 1558 of P.L. 111-148; 29 C.F.R. Part 1984

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

29 U.S.C. § 623(d)

180-300 days for administrative complaint; 2 years for court (3 years if violation is willful)

EEOC/state employment discrimination agency; private cause of action in state or federal court

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

42 U.S.C. §12203(a)

29 C.F.R. Part 1640

180-300 days (45 days for federal employees)

EEOC/state employment discrimination agency; private cause of action in federal court

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

Pub. L. 111-5, Section 1553; 48 C.F.R. § 3.907, and sequence

None in statute

Inspector General of the funding agency

Animal Welfare Act and Regulations (AWAR)

7 U.S.C. §2146; 9 C.F.R. § 2.32(c)(4)

None in statute

Secretary of Agriculture

Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986

15 U.S.C. § 2651

90 days

DOL/OSHA

Asbestos School Hazard Detection & Control Act

20 U.S.C. § 3608

None in statute

None stated.

Atomic Energy and Energy Reorganization Acts

42 U.S.C. § 5851

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)

31 U.S.C. § 5328

2 years

Federal District Court

Bankruptcy

11 U.S.C. § 525(b)

Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)

42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a)

180-300 days; 45 days for federal employees

EEOC/state employment discrimination agency; private cause of action in federal court

Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act

42 U.S.C. § 1997d

None in statute

No private cause of action for employees recognized

Civil Service Reform Act

5 U.S.C. § 2302; 5 C.F.R. Part 1201

30 days

MSPB; except for "mixed cases" under Title VII

Civil Service Reform Act (FBI employees)

5 U.S.C. § 2303

None.

DOJ Inspector General; OARM

Civilian Employees of the Armed Forces

10 U.S.C. § 1587

Secretary of Defense/OPM, MSPB

Civil War Reconstruction Era Federal Civil Rights Statutes

42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, 1985(2)(witness protection)

28 U.S.C. § 1658(a) applies 4-year statute of limitation to laws enacted after December 1, 1990; otherwise most analogous state law applies

Federal district court

Clayton Act (antitrust)

15 U.S.C. § 15(a)

4 years-see 15 U.S.C. § 15(b)

Federal District Court, generally no standing recognized for employees

Clean Air Act

42 U.S.C. § 7622; 29 C.F.R. Part 24

30 days

DOL/OSHA

Clean Water Act

33 U.S.C. §1311, 1367(a), (b) , 29 C.F.R. Part 24

30 days

DOL/OSHA

Coast Guard whistleblower protection [Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Act] and Seaman's Protection Act

46 U.S. C. § 2114 (as amended 2010)

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Commercial Motor Vehicles Program (see STAA)

49 U.S.C. § 31105, 29 C.F.R. Part 1978

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act ("Super Fund")

42 U.S.C. § 9610

29 C.F.R. Part 24

30 days

DOL/OSHA

Congressional Accountability Act

2 U.S.C. § 1301, 1402

180 days

Office of Compliance of Congress

Consumer Credit Protection Act (garnishments)

15 U.S.C. § 1674

DOL Wage & Hour

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) (part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010); per 12 U.S.C. § 5481(14), coverage includes the Alternative Mortgage Parity Act of 1982, 12 U.S.C. § 2801; Consumer Leasing Act of 1976, 15 U.S.C. § 1667; most of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1693; Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691; Fair Credit Billing Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1666; most of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C § 1681; Home Owners Protection Act of 1998, 12 U.S.C. § 4901; Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692; parts of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1831t(c)-(f); parts of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, 15 U.S.C. § 6802-09; Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975, 12 U.S.C § 2801; Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994, 15 U.S.C. § 1601 note; S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008, 12 U.S.C. § 5101; the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1601; the Truth in Savings Act, 12 U.S.C. § 4301; section 626 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, Pub. L. No. 111-8; and the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1701.

12 U.S.C. § 5567; 29 C.F.R. Part 1985

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)

15 U.S.C. § 2087; 29 C.F.R. Part 1983

180 days

DOL/OSHA, bypass option to federal court after 210 days

Contractor Employees of the Armed Forces

10 U.S.C. § 2409

3 years (for IG complaint), then 2 years for filing in court (eff. 2013-07-01)

Inspector General of contracting agency; bypass option to federal court after 210 days

Credit Union Employee Protection

12 U.S.C. §1790b

2 years

federal court

Defend Trade Secrets Act

18 U.S.C. §1833(b)

N/A

immunity from liability

Department of Energy Defense Activities Whistleblower Protection

42 U.S.C. § 7239

30 days to report violation; 90 days to report retaliation

Office of Hearings and Appeals

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Commodity Exchange Act reward)

7 U.S.C. § 26; 17 C.F.R. 165

Before anyone else files

Commodity Future Trading Commission

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (employee protection, see "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau" above for a list of covered laws)

12 U.S.C. § 5567 (no regulations now, but compare with SOX regs at 29 C.F.R. Part 1980)

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (obstruction of justice)

15 U.S.C. § 78u-6(h)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C. § 1513(e)

3 years from learning of violation and 6 years from the violation

federal court

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Securities Exchange Act reward)

15 U.S.C. § 78u-6; 17 C.F.R. Parts 240, 249

Before anyone else files

Securities Exchange Commission

Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX)

20 U.S.C. § 1681, and sequence, implied claim under Jackson v. Birmingham Bd. Of Ed., 544 U.S. 167 (2005)

None, consider state statute of limitations

 

Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)

42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(i)

None in § 1395dd(i); 2 years under 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(d)(2)(C); consider also state statutes of limitations

Federal or state court

Employee Polygraph Protection Act

29 U.S.C. § 2002

29 C.F.R. § 801 et seq., esp. 801-40

3 years

DOL/Federal District Court/State Court

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

29 U.S.C. §1132(a), 1140

3 years

Federal District Court

Energy Reorganization Act

42 U.S.C. § 5851

29 C.F.R. Part 24

180 days

DOL/OSHA, kick-out to federal court after one year

Equal Pay Act

29 U.S.C. § 206(d)

2 years; 3 years if "willful" violation

DOL or Federal district court

Fair Labor Standards Act (wage & hour, child labor, minimum wage, overtime)

29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3)

29 C.F.R. Part 783

2 years; 3 years if "willful" violation

DOL, Federal District Court, or state court

False Claims Act (FCA) (qui tam provision)

31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)

6 years; and before anyone else files

Federal District Court, under seal

False Claims Act (retaliation provision)

31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)

3 years

Federal District Court; see also NDAA

Family and Medical Leave Act "[FMLA"]

29 U.S.C. § 2615

2 years (3 years if "willful" violation)

DOL, Federal District Court, or state court

Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)

48 C.F.R. § 3.900, and sequence

 

Consider False Claims Act and Inspector General of the funding agency

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employees

5 U.S.C. § 2303; 28 C.F.R. Part 27

None.

DOJ Inspector General; then OARM

Federal Credit Union Act (FCUA)

12 U.S.C. § 1790(b)

2 years

Federal District Court

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

12 U.S.C. § 1831j

2 years

Federal District Court

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

12 U.S.C. § 1831k

none for reward

federal banking agency

Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)

45 U.S.C. § 60

Federal employees suffering retaliation for making a claim may consider a WPA claim under 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8) and (9)

Federal Home Loan Banks, Resolution Trust Corporation

12 U.S.C. § 1441a

Federal Mine Health and Safety Act

30 U.S.C. 815(c)

60 days

FMSHRC

Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA)

49 U.S.C. § 20109; 29 C.F.R. Part 1982

180 days

DOL/OSHA, bypass option to federal court after 210 days

Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), covering banks with insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

12 U.S.C. § 1831j

2 years

federal court

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Section 402

21 U.S.C. 399d

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), as enforced through Dodd-Frank

15 U.S.C. § 78u-6; 17 C.F.R. Parts 240, 249; 15 U.S.C. § 78u-6(h)(1)(A)

3 years from learning of violation and 6 years from the violation

SEC for reward or federal court for retaliation

Foreign Service Act of 1980

22 U.S.C. § 3905

Intelligence Authorization Act of 2014

50 U.S.C. § 3341(j)

90 days

Employing agency

IRS whistleblower rewards

26 U.S.C. § 7623; IRS Manual, Part 25

In time for IRS to collect; and before anyone else files

IRS Whistleblower Office, using Form 211

International Safe Container Act of 1977

46 U.S.C. § 1506

60 days

DOL/OSHA

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

29 C.F.R. § 164.502(j)

N/A

Whistleblower defense to claims of HIPAA violations

Jones Act (Maritime employees) [See also Seaman's Protection Act]

46 U.S.C. § 688

Federal District Court, common law maritime tort implied.

Jury Duty Act (for service on federal juries)

28 U.S.C. § 1875

Federal District Court

Labor Management Relations Act

29 U.S.C. § 301

Varies with state law, sometimes 180 days

Federal District Court

Lloyd-LaFollette Act

5 U.S.C. § 7211

None in statute

Longshoreman's and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act

33 U.S.C. § 948(a); 20 C.F.R. 702.271(b)

None

DOL, ESA District Director

Major Fraud Act of 1989

18 U.S.C. § 1031(h)

None in statute, consider state limitations

Federal District Court civil

Merit Systems Protection Board

5 U.S.C. § 7701(e) (civil service); 5 U.S.C. §§ 1214(a)(3), 1221 (WPA IRA); 38 U.S.C. § 713 (VA SES)

30 days (civil service); 60 days (WPA IRA); 7 days (VA SES)

MSPB

Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act

29 U.S.C. §§1854, 1855

180 days

DOL

Military Whistleblower Protection Act

10 U.S.C. § 1034

None in statute

Office of Inspector General, administrative remedy only, no private cause of action

"Mixed cases" for federal employees under the Civil Service Reform Act

5 U.S.C. § 7702

30 days (MSPB) or 45 days (Agency EEO)

After 120 days, option to file in federal court

Monetary Transactions (also called the Bank Secrecy Act)

31 U.S.C. § 5328

2 years

Federal District Court

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)

49 U.S.C. § 30171

180 days

DOL / OSHA

National Credit Union Act (NCUA)

12 U.S.C. § 1790b

2 years

Federal District Court

National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA FY13), for employees of federal contractors

Public Law No. 112-239, Section 828, 41 U.S.C. § 4712, and sequence; 48 C.F.R. § 3.900, and sequence

3 years

Inspector General of the agency involved; then federal district court

National Labor Relations Act

29 U.S.C. §158(a)(4)

6 months

NLRB

National Transit Systems Security Act of 2007 (NTSSA)

6 U.S.C. § 1142; 29 C.F.R. Part 1982

180 days

DOL / OSHA

Occupational Safety and Health Act

29 U.S.C. § 660(c), 29 C.F.R. Part 1977 ("Part 11(c)")

30 days

DOL/OSHA-no private cause of action

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

29 U.S.C. § 218C

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Pipeline Safety Improvement Act

49 U.S.C. § 60129; 29 C.F.R. Part 1981

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Privacy Act

5 U.S.C. § 552a

2 years

Federal District Court

Public Health Service Act

42 U.S.C. §1201 et seq. (1988), 42 C.F.R. Part 50, Subpart A, 42 C.F.R. §§ 50.103, 104

Administrative, within funded private entity

Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO")

38 U.S.C. § 1961- 68; 18 U.S.C. §1513(e)

4 years (applies Clayton Act statute of limitations); 3 years from discovery (under Dodd-Frank)

Federal District Court

Rehabilitation Act

29 U.S.C. § 794,29 C.F.R. §§ 1614, 1641, Chapter 60

Administrative, DOL/OFCCP; EEOC

Safe Containers for International Cargo Act

46 U.S.C. §1506

60 days

DOL/OSHA

Safe Drinking Water Act

42 U.S.C. §300j-9

30 days

DOL/OSHA

Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX)

18 U.S.C. § 1514A; 29 C.F.R. Part 1980

180 days

DOL/OSHA, kick-out to federal court after 180 days

Seaman's Protection Act (SPA) as amended by Section 611 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010

46 U.S. C. § 2114; 29 CFR Part 1986

180 days

DOL/OSHA

Sick leave for employees of federal contractors

EO 13706; 29 C.F.R. § 13.41

None in regs

DOL/WHD

Solid Waste Disposal Act (including RCRA)

42 U.S.C. § 6971,
29 C.F.R. Part 24

30 days

DOL/OSHA

Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act

30 U.S.C. §1293; 30 C.F.R. Part 865

30 days

Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA)

49 U.S.C. § 31105, 29 C.F.R. Part 1978

180 days to file with OSHA; wait 210 days, then file in court

DOL/OSHA/kick-out to court

Toxic Substances Control Act

15 U.S.C. §2622

29 C.F.R. Part 24

30 days

DOL/OSHA

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA)

38 U.S.C. § 4301, et seq., 38 U.S.C. §4311(b)

None; 38 U.S.C. § 4327(b)

Administrative (Secretary of Defense, OPM) or private suit in Federal District Court

[Federal] Water Pollution Control Act ("Clean Water Act")

33 U.S.C. §1311, 1367(a), (b) , 29 C.F.R. Part 24

30 days

DOL/OSHA

Welfare and Pensions Disclosure Act

29 U.S.C. §1140

3 year

Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century ("AIR 21")

42 U.S.C. § 42121; 29 C.F.R. Part 1979

90 days

DOL/OSHA, bypass option to federal court after 210 days

Whistleblower Protection Act (federal government employees)

5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8) & (b)(9)

None.

Office of Special Counsel

Workforce Investment Act, ("Welfare to Work"), formerly Job Training and Partnership Act (JTPA)

29 U.S.C. §1574(g) or 29 U.S.C. § 2934(f)

DOL-but see 29 C.F.R. Part 37, §§ 629.51, 637.11

If you know of any changes to the law not shown on this chart, let us know.