Whistleblower Protection Highlights

The information on this page includes educational materials regarding Whistleblower Protection. If you wish to file a complaint, please contact the OIG Hotline directly.

 

Since the enactment of the Inspector General Act in 1978, Inspectors General had the mandate to receive and investigate complaints or information from employees concerning the possible violations of law, rules, or regulations, or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety. If you have such information or believe that you qualify as a whistleblower, submit the information or complaint to the Department of State Office of Inspector General Hotline at the Hotline website http://oig.state.gov/hotline, via e-mail oighotline@state.gov, or by phone at 202-647-3320 or 800-409-9926. Management also has been prohibited from taking personnel action reprising against employees who have made such a complaint or disclosed information to an Inspector General.

 

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 strengthened and improved protection for the rights of Federal employees by mandating that employees who are whistleblowers should not suffer adverse consequences as a result of prohibited personnel practices for making protected disclosures.

 

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 required Inspectors General to designate a Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman. The Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman is to educate agency employees but cannot act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate of the employee or former employee whistleblower.


Protected Disclosures

A protected disclosure includes any disclosure of information that an employee, former employee, or employment applicant reasonably believes evidences

  • violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
  • gross mismanagement;
  • gross waste of funds;
  • abuse of authority; or
  • substantial and specific danger to public health or safety

that is made to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the Inspector General, or an employee designated by the head of the agency to receive such a disclosure. If you know of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or a substantial and specific danger to public safety or health in Department of State or Broadcasting Board of Governors programs and operations, report it to the OIG Hotline at http://oig.state.gov/hotline or OSC at http://osc.gov.

The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) maintains a Hotline for national security whistleblowers at http://www.dni.gov/index.php/about-this-site/contact-the-ig.


What protection is there for whistleblowers?

The basic premise of whistleblower protection is that the whistleblower does not suffer reprisal for reporting potential misconduct or alleged criminal activities. Reprisal can come in the form of a prohibited personnel practice which occurs when a person with authority takes, fails to take or threatens to take a personnel action against an employee because of the employee’s protected disclosure and can include details, transfers, reassignments, and significant changes in duties, responsibilities, or working conditions.

In the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Congress established that the primary role of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) was to protect employees, particularly whistleblowers, from prohibited personnel practices including reprisal for disclosures as well as acting in the interests of employees who seek assistance from OSC. OSC may be contacted at: http://www.osc.gov.

In certain cases, an employee who has experienced retaliation because of a protected communication may file an appeal directly with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). As noted in 5 C.F.R. § 1201.3, personnel actions that are directly appealable to the MSPB include adverse actions (removals, suspensions that exceed 14 days, reductions in grade or pay, and furloughs for 30 days or less), retirement appeals, performance-based removals or reductions in grade, denials of within-grade salary increases, reduction-in-force actions, and denials of restoration or reemployment rights. The MSPB may be contacted at: http://www.mspb.gov.


Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman

Under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA), the Inspector General has designated a Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman to educate agency employees who have or are thinking about making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies against retaliation for making the protected disclosure. Employees and former employees need to be aware that, per the WPEA, the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman cannot act as their legal representative, agent, or advocate. The Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman may be contacted at: OIGWPEAOmbuds@state.gov.


Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information

On July 8, 2013, in accordance with Presidential Policy Directive-19 (PPD-19), “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information,” the Department announced a new policy aimed at enhancing whistleblower protections for employees with access to classified national security information to safely report fraud, waste, and abuse. PPD-19 required the Department and other agencies to establish a review process that enables the employee to appeal an action affecting the employee’s eligibility for access to classified information if the employee believes the action was taken in reprisal for a protected disclosure of fraud, waste, and abuse. As part of the process, the employee may request Department of State Office of Inspector General review of the alleged reprisal within five days of the time limit provided in 12 FAM 234.1(b)(4). Under 12 FAM 234.1(b), within 10 days of the decision to deny or revoke the security clearance, the employee can request the investigative file or other documents. Under 12 FAM 234.1(b)(4), the employee can submit a reply to the decision within 30 days of receipt of the investigative file or requested documents.

PPD-19: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/image/ppd-19.pdf

 

Whistleblowers Who Are Employees of Contractors, Subcontractors or Grantees

June 30, 2013 marked the initiation of a new process for review of whistleblower reprisal complaints alleged by employees of contractors, subcontractors, and grantees. The new process which requires investigation of such complaints by the OIG is illustrated in the flowchart below:

 
State Dept Image/Aug 13, 2013
Date: 08/13/2013 Description: Section 828 Public Law 112-239 Whistleblower, Contractor flowchart - State Dept Image


Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Revisions

The Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is in the process of reviewing the draft revision to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) implementing the requirements of Section 828, Public Law 112-239. Public Law 112-239 can be viewed at:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-112publ239/pdf/PLAW-112publ239.pdf

 

The following links provide the most current information on the draft FAR revision:

https://www.federalregister.gov/r/9000-AM56

http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201304&RIN=9000-AM56

 

Further Resources


1. Office of Special Counsel



 

2. Merit Systems Protection Board

 

3. OIG Hotline

 

4. Office of Personnel Management