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Whistleblowers In the USA

A whistleblower (also written as whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person who exposes secretive information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within a private or public organization.

Office of Special Counsel Needs to be Revamped

Internal Strife in the OSC

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Office of Special Counsel's  (OSC) own employee don't trust it with their discrimination complaints.


 Actions Needed to Improve Processing of Prohibited Personnel Practice and Whistleblower Disclosure Case according to  a June 14, 2018 GAO report.


OSC’s process for reviewing and referring allegations submitted by its own employees includes the involvement of officials and staff. This involvement was identified as a key concern by OSC employees. Specifically, 17 of the 87 OSC employees who responded to GAO’s survey reported that they considered filing internal allegations against another OSC employee but chose not to do so in part because they feared losing anonymity, feared management reprisal, or were uncertain how to file an internal OSC complaint. Congress recently enacted statutory changes to provide additional safeguards to OSC employees who file internal complaints, including establishing an agreement with an agency inspector general to review internal OSC cases. However, OSC has not yet fully

"For the fourth objective, we examined OSC procedures for its employees to file PPP and whistleblower disclosure allegations. We interviewed officials from OSC, the National Science Foundation Office of the Inspector General (NSF-OIG), and the Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE). We interviewed officials from these entities because they review certain complaints and disclosures from OSC employees. In addition, we assessed whether OSC’s procedures aligned with relevant Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government."


GAO conducted this performance audit from March 2017 to June 2018 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that GAO plans and performs the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. GAO believes that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.


During the period we reviewed, OSC did not refer the majority of cases it ultimately closed to either IPD (in PPP cases) or the subject agency (in whistleblower disclosure cases) for additional investigation. OSC closed these cases for at least one of the following reasons:

1. The case lacked sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation.

2. OSC lacked jurisdiction over the case, which happens if the whistleblower in question is not a current, former, or prospective federal employee, or if the individual has the basis of an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint. 22

3. The case had been misfiled, meaning complainants incorrectly filed PPPs as whistleblower disclosures.


A major factor contributing to the lengthy processing times for referred whistleblower disclosure cases is the length of time it takes agencies to conduct their investigations in response to OSC. By law, the subject agency is required to respond to the allegations within 60 days.28 OSC may grant one or more extensions of this timeline to agencies that request them, and OSC did so in most cases we reviewed. From fiscal year 2011 through fiscal year 2016, OSC granted on average 88 percent of all extension requests received from agencies. In any given year during this period, OSC granted at least 83 percent of extension requests. While OSC procedures normally allow up to two extensions, the disclosure worksheet included in case files has slots for up to five extensions. We found that OSC granted between 2.7 and 4 agency extension requests per case on average from fiscal years 2011 through 2016.


Our review of cases closed in fiscal year 2016 also showed similar results. OSC did not receive agencies’ responses within 60 days for any of the 71 referrals under subsection 1213(c) it closed in fiscal year 2016 that we reviewed. 


OSC's Has Yet to Fulfill Its Commitment to GAO on Competency

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Some Aspects of OSC Case Processing Procedures Generally Adhere to Internal Control Principles, but Others Do Not.


GAO identified eight internal control principles that are relevant to ensuring that OSC has an effective process in place so that its objective will be achieved for resolving PPP and whistleblower disclosure cases. These eight internal control principles include (1) establishing a structure, responsibility, and authority; (2) defining objectives and risk tolerances; (3) identifying, analyzing, and responding to change; (4) communicating internally; (5) performing monitoring activities; (6) implementing control activities through policies; (7) design control activities; and (8) committing to competence. Based on our review, OSC generally adhered to five of the relevant internal control principles, but did not fully adhere to three.


OSC Generally Did Not Adhere to Three Relevant Internal Control Principles Implementation of Control Activities through Policies:


We believe that for the PPP and whistleblower disclosure processes OSC did not implement its control activities through policies.

Prohibited Personnel Practices: CEU receives and processes PPP cases and is OSC’s largest unit in terms of staff and caseload. However, CEU lacks documented, complete procedures for processing cases, such as a comprehensive guide or manual describing procedures for reviewing and resolving PPP cases. We identified the following specific procedures, for which CEU lacks documentation: (1) case priorities, (2) obtaining favorable actions, (3) staff productivity expectations, and (4) supervisory review.


Second, concerning favorable actions, CEU lacks procedures for how staff should determine when a favorable action is warranted, how to obtain and negotiate favorable actions with agencies, and how to document favorable actions in case files. A favorable action is an outcome in a case that could result in a specific benefit to the complainant, an outcome aimed at disciplining the subject official and deterring future bad conduct, or an improvement to agency processes. OSC lists the number of favorable actions as a key performance metric in its budget and performance documents. CEU, in particular since 2014, has sought favorable actions, especially in cases that do not merit referral to its investigative unit or mediation unit. According to OSC officials, this initiative was part of an effort by the prior Special Counsel to expand CEU’s investigative role beyond that of an intake unit. CEU increased its share of OSC’s favorable actions from approximately 1 percent in fiscal year 2011(1 of 75) to 31 percent in fiscal year 2016 (77 of 251). However, without documentation of procedures, OSC staff may not consistently perform required steps to attain favorable actions. For example, we found that 18 of the 61 cases (29.5 percent) where CEU claimed a favorable action lacked documentation of OSC’s involvement in obtaining the favorable action, the agencies’ implementation of the favorable action, whether the favorable action was achieved in another OSC unit but claimed by CEU, or some other discrepancy. The “Best Practice Survey” results noted that CEU staff would like written procedures for obtaining favorable actions.


Third, CEU lacked documentation for staff productivity expectations. In August 2017, according to an OSC official, CEU staff were expected, though not required, to resolve at least 36 PPP cases per quarter. CEU officials were unable to provide documentation on how the goal was communicated to staff. Another finding from OSC’s “Best Practice Survey” was that CEU staff need clarity regarding case resolution requirements. In addition, during our small group discussion with CEU staff in September 2017, the staff raised concerns regarding OSC’s case resolution expectations. They said that productivity expectations are unwritten and vary depending on whether staff telework or not. One staffperson was concerned that management had an unwritten expectation for staff to close significantly more than the 36 cases per quarter. OSC shared documentation in April 2018 clarifying staff expectations for case productivity. The expectations, which are effective June 1, 2018, and vary depending on the grade level of the OSC employee, were emailed to all CEU staff. However, while OSC has documented and communicated CEU staff productivity expectations, the expectations did not include guidance on how staff should balance resolving a certain number of cases over a specified time period and obtaining favorable actions, which OSC has also emphasized for CEU staff.


CEU does not have written procedures specifying supervisory review of CEU cases. CEU management officials told us they are required to review (1) PPP closure letters; (2) all cases that allege reprisal for whistleblowing; and (3) all cases referred to other units, such as those referred for mediation and investigation. However, OSC lacked procedures for these review processes. As a result, OSC staff has not followed some steps in case files consistently. For example, of the 61 cases we reviewed with a corrective action taken in CEU, 45 alleged reprisal for whistleblowing. We found that 15 of these 45 cases did not have a CEU management review. Also, of those cases without a corrective action that were not referred for investigation, we estimate that 58.8 percent did not include CEU managerial review of the closure letter.  For cases referred for investigation, we found that 44.7 percent did not include CEU managerial review of the referral memorandum The OSC “Best Practice Survey” results also indicated that CEU staff would like to standardize the unit’s review procedures.


Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government states that management should implement control activities through policies by documenting them. CEU management said these specific steps, though not documented, could be discussed during staff’s initial training, at midterm and annual reviews, when assigning cases, and at OSC meetings. CEU management officials said they are formalizing guidance and have orally communicated these case processes to staff during off-site training and informal communications. Without documented procedures, there is an increased risk that employees will not consistently follow management’s directives.


Whistleblower Disclosures: OSC has written procedures for processing whistleblower disclosure cases. These procedures, among other things, describe case productivity requirements for staff, specify managerial involvement for cases, and outline the case prioritization process, as well as other case processes. However, these procedures also include outdated processes. For example, OSC’s case prioritization process specifies three priority levels but we found whistleblower disclosure priority worksheets in case files that specify four priority levels. In addition, OSC’s written procedures outline an informal referral process to agencies’ respective inspector general (IG) offices. According to OSC’s procedures, OSC uses this referral process in cases where the whistleblower disclosure is less egregious in nature and does not warrant a referral to the head of the federal agency. However, according to OSC officials, OSC no longer refers whistleblower disclosures informally to IG offices, but instead refers whistleblower disclosures informally to agencies’ respective general counsel offices.


Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government states that management should periodically review policies, procedures, and related control activities for continued relevance and effectiveness. An OSC official told us OSC had not updated its procedures due to OSC’s high caseload for whistleblower disclosures. In April 2018, OSC provided us with updated case procedures for case prioritization and informal referrals. OSC officials said they will communicate the updated procedures to the appropriate staff during a staff meeting and will make the procedures available on OSC’s intranet page. The updated procedures should help OSC staff implement case processes as intended by OSC management.


To conduct our case file review, GAO asked OSC to locate and retrieve 396 PPP and whistleblower disclosure paper case files that were closed in fiscal year 2016. OSC told us after several months, that it was unable to locate 18 files (4.5 percent) and was still retrieving 36 case files (9 percent). Ultimately, OSC could not locate 20 case files and told us 13 cases would be unavailable within the course of our review. These 33 cases were opened by OSC in fiscal years 2012 to 2016, although a majority were opened in fiscal years 2015 and 2016.


According to OSC officials, some of the difficulty of finding their files is because they are maintained in paper files. OSC officials said that one full-time OSC employee oversees the maintenance and retrieval of closed OSC paper case files. They explained that records are stored at multiple locations: OSC headquarters, OSC’s field offices, and at federal record and archive centers. OSC officials told us that, if given additional time beyond our January 2018 deadline, then they could locate the remaining cases files but could not provide us a time frame for doing so.


However, OSC has had issues migrating data from OSC 2000 to eCMS, has not implemented the new system, and continues to maintain paper files. As of March 2018, OSC was determining whether its contracted vendor would be able to migrate the OSC 2000 data to eCMS. In addition, OSC was examining (1) whether eCMS as constructed can reach full functionality so that OSC can eliminate paper case files, and (2) if so, what further system development is required to accomplish this. OSC officials said their tentative goal is to transition from OSC 2000 to eCMS at the beginning of fiscal year 2019.


Under Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, management should clearly document internal control and all transactions and other significant events in a manner that allows the documentation to be readily available for examination. In addition, according to OSC regulations, OSC is to maintain records to (1) document how OSC handled each matter; (2) provide a resource for consistency in interpretation and application of the law; and (3) allow for statistical reports and analysis of matters processed at OSC.36 Until OSC develops an electronic case management system that would allow individual staff to perform customizable case history searches and manage their caseloads, it cannot ensure that cases related to a specific individual or agency will be located in a timely manner, which could also delay the work of OSC staff.


Commitment to Competence


OSC does not have a systematic, standardized training program for OSC employees who review and process PPP and whistleblower disclosure cases. CEU and DU, OSC’s two largest units in terms of cases closed, described a number of aspects of training for entry level employees. For example, OSC officials said both units provide a training manual to new staff. The training manuals cover a number of topics, such as unit and OSC policies, case processes, and relevant case law, and include examples. In DU, OSC officials said new staff receive some trainingtraining at OSC is emphasized, and (2) existing training for entry-level employees could be enhanced. For example, one participant in our small group discussions stated that although the nature of their work requires that much is learned via on-the-job training, OSC could do better by providing a systematic approach for new hires that helps them understand the life of a case (e.g., documenting case lifecycle or formalizing checklists). Also, as part of the OSC’s “Best Practice Survey” CEU staff identified the need for regular quarterly training meetings to discuss OSC policy issues, developments in case law, and changes and clarifications on CEU case processing procedures.


In April 2018, OSC provided us with additional documentation regarding training provided in CEU. The documentation included an outline of PPP topics and the CEU training manual we had previously received. As we discussed earlier, to help manage OSC’s caseload, PPP cases were assigned to staff to outside of CEU as part of the CEU project. Staff not accustomed to working PPP cases on a regular basis were asked to do so. However, OSC officials said that no formal training was provided to these staff as part of this project.


OSC nonmanagement staff told us they would like more regular, standardized training. During our small group discussions, OSC staff discussed two consistent themes related to training: (1) on-the-job training at OSC is emphasized, and (2) existing training for entry-level employees could be enhanced. For example, one participant in our small group discussions stated that although the nature of their work requires that much is learned via on-the-job training, OSC could do better by providing a systematic approach for new hires that helps them understand the life of a case (e.g., documenting case lifecycle or formalizing checklists). Also, as part of the OSC’s “Best Practice Survey” CEU staff identified the need for regular quarterly training meetings to discuss OSC policy issues, developments in case law, and changes and clarifications on CEU case processing procedures


Standards for Internal Control in Federal Government state that management should demonstrate a commitment to recruit, develop, and retain competent individuals. This includes tailoring training based on the needs of the role. In addition, OSC’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2017 to 2022 has an objective on recruiting, developing, and retaining a highly talented, engaged, and diverse workforce. OSC officials noted that given OSC’s small size, OSC does not have a regular, standardized training program. OSC officials did explain and provide documentation regarding continuous training provided to staff, such as external training staff attended. They also told us that efforts to find staff external training opportunities depend on the extent to which funding is available.


As OSC’s caseload continues to increase, efficiently recruiting and onboarding staff may help OSC better manage its caseload. The lack of standardized training poses a risk to the consistency with which cases are worked, reviewed, and closed, especially since staff not accustomed to working PPP cases as part of the CEU project were not provided training because OSC lacks standardized training based on the documentation we reviewed. Ensuring consistent training among staff could help alleviate any issues created by absences and employee turnover. Such training would also help OSC manage its caseload if nonPPP staff are again asked to work PPP cases.




Downloads

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Whistleblowers in the U.S.

Hazards of Whistleblowing in the Federal Government

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Rights of OPM Employees, Applicants for Employment, and Employees of Contractors Who Disclose Fraud, Waste, or Abuse 

Whistleblowers in the Corporate World

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The Whistleblower’s Renewed Connection to Corporate Governance

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10 Famous/Infamous Whistleblowers

Mark Felt was involved in the Watergate scandal that toppled the presidency of Richard Nixon.

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Daniel Ellsberg

he employee of the State Department in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, a secret account of documents pertaining to how the United States came to fight the Vietnam War. 

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Sherron Watkins

An executive for the Enron Corp., she helped expose the seemingly formidable company in 2001 and 2002 as one constructed on enormous financial lies and frauds. Along with Coleen Rowley and WorldCom's Cynthia Cooper, she was one of three whistleblowers named Time magazine's Persons of the Year in 2002. 

OPM'S OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL ON WHISTLEBLOWING

If you know of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or a substantial and specific danger to public sa

Rights of OPM Employees, Applicants for Employment, and Employees of Contractors Who Disclose Fraud, Waste, or Abuse

If you know of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or a substantial and specific danger to public safety or health in Office of Personnel Management (OPM) programs and operations, report it to the OPM Office of the Inspector General (OIG) using the OIG Hotline


Whistleblower disclosures can save lives as well as billions of taxpayer dollars.  They play a critical role in keeping our Government honest, efficient, and accountable.  Recognizing that whistleblowers root out fraud, waste, and abuse, and protect public health and safety, Federal laws strongly encourage Federal employees, as well as employees of Federal contractors, to disclose wrongdoing.  Federal laws also protect whistleblowers from retaliation.

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 directs Inspectors General to designate a whistleblower protection ombudsman for the purpose of educating employees about prohibitions on retaliation against whistleblowers, and about rights and remedies available to whistleblowers who believe they have been or may be retaliated against.  In fulfillment of the ombudsman requirement and to promote the important goal of accountability and transparency within and outside the agency, the OPM OIG Office of Legal Affairs has prepared this page about whistleblower protection policy as an educational resource for employees of OPM, applicants for employment at OPM, and employees of OPM’s contractors and subcontractors.  

It is the aim of the OPM OIG to provide as much information as possible to assist and encourage whistleblowers, potential whistleblowers, and victims of actual or threatened whistleblower retaliation.  However, please note that OPM OIG staff are prohibited from acting as legal representative, agent, or advocate for whistleblowers, and cannot provide legal advice or counsel.  The resources provided on this website are educational only and are not a substitute for private legal advice.

Whistleblower Protection for Federal Employees, Former Employees, and Applicants for Employment

Protected Disclosures of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

A “protected disclosure” under Federal whistleblower protection law includes any disclosure of information that an employee, former employee, or applicant for employment 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.

Disclosures of such wrongdoing are covered by whistleblower protections regardless of whether they are made to the Office of the Inspector General, the Office of Special Counsel, a supervisor or someone higher up in management, or a member of Congress or congressional committee—provided that the disclosure is not specifically prohibited by law and the information does not have to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs.

Prohibited Personnel Practices

Federal whistleblower protection law provides legal remedies for employees or job applicants who face retaliation for making protected disclosures of fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, or substantial and specific danger to public safety or health.  

Specifically, it is a prohibited personnel practice for Federal employers to retaliate against whistleblowers by taking, failing to take, or threatening to take or not to take, a personnel action.  “Personnel action” in this context means an appointment, promotion, disciplinary action, detail, transfer, reassignment, reinstatement, restoration, or reemployment; a decision concerning performance evaluations, pay, benefits, awards, education, training; or any other significant change in duties, responsibilities, or working conditions.  In addition, the law prohibits retaliation for filing an appeal, complaint, or grievance; helping someone else file or testifying on their behalf; or cooperating with or disclosing information to the OIG.  If you are an employee of OPM or an applicant for employment at OPM and you have been subjected to or threatened with this kind of whistleblower retaliation, you have the right to seek redress from the OPM OIG, the Office of Special Counsel, or (in some cases) the Merit Systems Protection Board as described below under “Filing a Complaint of Whistleblower Retaliation or Threatened Retaliation.”

Special Requirements for Nondisclosure Agreements.  As further protection for potential whistleblowers, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 prohibits agencies from issuing or enforcing nondisclosure agreements, policies, or forms that do not contain the following statement: 

"These provisions are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this agreement and are controlling."

Special Prohibition on Retaliation Affecting Security Clearances.  Effective July 8, 2013, Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19) (PDF file) [55.33 KB] prohibits whistleblower retaliation in the form of actions that affect an employee’s eligibility for access to classified information.  The types of protected disclosures covered by PPD-19 are more limited than in the situations described above: the protection only extends to employees whose disclosures were 1) to a supervisor in the employee’s direct chain of command, including the Director of OPM, or 2) to the Inspector General, or 3) to an employee designated by either of the above officials for the purpose of receiving such disclosures.  The protection also extends to employees who cooperate with or disclose information to the OIG in connection with an audit, inspection, or investigation.

Unlike other prohibited personnel practices, retaliation or threatened retaliation relating to an employee’s security clearance is not within the jurisdiction of the Office of Special Counsel or the Merit Systems Protection Board.  Instead, PPD-19 requires each agency to establish an internal review process to address whether the denial or revocation of an employee’s clearance should be reconsidered because it was improperly based on relation for the employee’s protected whistleblower disclosures.  This process will include an OIG investigation and report to the Director of OPM that may recommend corrective or disciplinary action.  Any OPM employee whose security clearance is denied or revoked should receive a notice from OPM Facilities, Security and Contracting (FSC) fully explaining the review and appeals process (PDF file) [192.88 KB].

Filing a Complaint of Whistleblower Retaliation or Threatened Retaliation

If you are an OPM employee or an applicant for employment at OPM, and you believe you have been or may be subjected to whistleblower retaliation, you have several avenues for seeking recourse.  

  • The OPM OIG Hotline. The OPM OIG investigates allegations of whistleblower retaliation against OPM employees and applicants for employment at OPM. Following an investigation, the OIG issues a report of its findings to OPM and may recommend that OPM take voluntary corrective or disciplinary action as appropriate to remedy the situation. The OIG also may refer the complaint to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for further action (see below). OPM employees who report their allegations to the OPM OIG may still file retaliation complaints with the OSC or MSPB as described below, though the OSC may opt not to become involved until the OIG’s investigation is concluded. Please note that employees and applicants for employment at agencies other than OPM should refer to their own agency’s guidelines regarding whistleblower protection. Click here to learn how to contact the OPM OIG Hotline.
  • The Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OSC receives, investigates, and prosecutes allegations of prohibited personnel practices, with an emphasis on protecting Federal government whistleblowers. When merited, OSC seeks corrective action remedies (such as back pay and reinstatement) on behalf of victims of whistleblower retaliation, either by negotiation with the employing agency or by seeking an order from the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). OSC is also authorized to file complaints at the MSPB to seek disciplinary action against individuals who commit prohibited personnel practices. Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, if an employee files a retaliation complaint with OSC and OSC opts not to seek corrective action on the employee’s behalf, the employee may bring an “individual right of action” before the Merit Systems Protection Board (see below). More information on how OSC may help you resolve your whistleblower retaliation complaint, including how to file a complaint, may be found on their website. (external link)
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Generally, an employee alleging whistleblower retaliation may only bring an individual right of action to the MSPB if the employee has first filed a complaint with the OSC and the OSC has opted not to seek corrective action on the employee’s behalf. However, certain personnel actions are appealable directly to the MSPB, regardless of whether whistleblower retaliation is a component of the complaint. 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), performance-based removals or reductions in grade, denials of within-grade salary increases, reduction-in-force actions, and denials of restoration or reemployment rights. If whistleblower retaliation is a component of the complaint, the MSPB will investigate both the adverse action and the alleged retaliation. If the MSPB finds that a prohibited personnel practice has been committed, the MSPB has the authority to order the agency to take certain corrective actions as appropriate to remedy the harm suffered by the employee. More information on whistleblower MSPB appeals is available here.  (external link)

Whistleblower Protection for Employees of OPM Contractors and Subcontractors

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 extended whistleblower protection to employees of Federal contractors, subcontractors, and grantees. 

If you believe you have been subjected to whistleblower retaliation (defined below) as an employee of an OPM contractor or subcontractor, you may submit a complaint through the OIG Hotline.

Information Covered by Contractor Whistleblower Protection Laws

Contractors, subcontractors, and grantees of Federal agencies may not discharge, demote, or otherwise discriminate against an employee as a reprisal for making a protected disclosure of information that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of:

  • gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant;
  • an abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant;
  • a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety;
  • or a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a Federal contract or grant.

Protected Disclosures under Contractor Whistleblower Protection Laws

Protected Disclosures in this context include information shared with:

  • members of Congress or representatives of congressional committees;
  • an Inspector General;
  • the Government Accountability Office;
  • a Federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management;
  • an authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency;
  • a court or grand jury; or
  • a manager or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, or grantee who has responsibility for investigating, discovering, orddressing misconduct.

Limitations on Coverage

It is important to note that this protection extends only to contractors and subcontractors whose contracts became effective or were amended on or after July 1, 2013, or to whom new task orders have been issued since that date. Additionally, a complaint may not be brought more than three years after the date on which the alleged reprisal took place.

Process for Investigating and Responding to Contractor Employees’ Whistleblower Retaliation Complaints

Within 180 days following receipt of a complaint, or within any extended time period up to 180 days as agreed to with the complainant, OPM OIG will either:

  • Investigate the complaint and submit a report of findings to the Director of OPM, the person who submitted the complaint, and the person’s employer; or
  • Dismiss the complaint based on a determination that it is frivolous, fails to allege a violation of the whistleblower protection law, or has already been addressed in another judicial or administrative proceeding initiated by the complainant.

The Director will review the OPM OIG’s report and determine whether there is sufficient basis to conclude that the contractor or subcontractor has subjected the employee to a prohibited reprisal. The Director will issue an order within 30 days following receipt of the report either denying relief or granting one or more of the following corrective actions:

  • Order the contractor or subcontractor to take affirmative action to abate the reprisal;
  • Order the contractor or subcontractor to reinstate the complainant to the position held before the reprisal, together with compensatory damages (including back pay), employment benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment that would apply if the reprisal had not been taken;
  • Order the contractor or subcontractor to pay the complainant an amount equal to the aggregate amount of all costs and expenses (including attorneys’ fees and expert witnesses’ fees) that were reasonably incurred by the complainant for, or in connection with, bringing the complaint, as determined by the Director.

If the Director denies relief or if no action has been taken within 210 days of receipt of the complaint (or 30 days following expiration of any extension agreed to between OPM OIG and the complainant), the complainant may bring an action in an appropriate United States district court against his or her employer as described under 41 U.S.C. § 4712.

If the Director orders a corrective action and the contractor or subcontractor fails to comply, the Director will file an action for enforcement in the appropriate United States district court. The complainant may also file or join such an action seeking enforcement of an order.

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HelloWhistleblower Outs Trump in Ukraine Scandal

HE DID IT! Summary of Trump's Phone Conversation Released

Trump released the transcript of his Ukraine call is a distraction from him withholding the whistleblower complaint from Congress

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Full declassified text of the Trump whistleblower complaint

Beginning in late March 2019, a series of articles appeared in an online publication called The Hill. In these articles, several Ukrainian officials—most notably, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko—made a series of allegations against other Ukrainian officials and current and former U.S. officials. Mr. Lutsenko and his colleagues alleged, inter alia:

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Trump's Headache: The Truth About Ukraine

Over the past four months, more than half a dozen U.S. officials have informed me of various facts related to this effort. The information provided herein was relayed to me in the course of official interagency business. It is routine for U.S. officials with responsibility for a particular regional or functional portfolio to share such information with one another in order to inform policymaking and analysis.

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Trump impeachment inquiry begins with intel chief Joseph Maguire testimony.

Give customers a reason to do business with you.

Select Whistleblower Cases in the Federal Government

USDA Civil Rights Office: OASCR Managers Found Incompetent 2017

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The whistleblowers in the present matter alleged that problems remained in OASCR through the summer of2016, despite USDA's assertions that significant corrective actions were taken to fix deficiencies. Specifically, Dr. Schur asserted that over 240 days elapsed between when she filed a formal EEO complaint and when she was first contacted by an investigator, in violation ofrelevant EEO regulations. Mr. Watson alleged that an EEO complaint he filed against OASCR senior leadership was improperly reviewed by a contractor, in violation of USDA regulations, which at the time required processing by the U.S. Postal Service EEO office, pursuant to a memorandum of understanding between these two agencies.


While OASCR has taken positive steps to improve its performance, based on the significant nwnber of cases that are still subject to delays, OSC has determined that the agency response is unreasonable in part. USDA may need to devote more resources to OASCR to ensure that cases are promptly processed and hold senior supervisors accountable for the mismanagement in this office. 

USDA Civil Rights Office: OASCR Found "Seriously Mismanaged" in 2015

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The Office of the Special Counsel reviewed the original disclosure, the agency reports, and the whistleblowers' comments. I have determined that the reports contain all the information required by statute. However, the agency's findings are partially unreasonable. As the whistleblowers noted, OASCR is tasked with protecting the civil rights of all USDA employees. As such, this office should set the standard not only for processing claims, but also for creating an environment free of discrimination. Rather than leading this effort, the report confirmed that OASCR has an unusually high number of complaints filed against its own leadership. In addition, almost half of these complaints were not acted on in a timely manner, and even when they were addressed within the legally mandated period, they were processed in a manner that violated agency regulations. While the report did not reveal any intentional wrongdoing, it demonstrated that OASCR has been seriously mismanaged, thereby compromising the civil rights of USDA employees. 

Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Violated the Antideficiency Act

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The whistleblower, who chose to remain anonymous, disclosed that the International Program Division (AFS-50), a policy division of the FAA, has engaged in a pattern of unilaterally waiving pay, compensation, and benefits (PC&B) costs when charging foreign civil aviation authorities to host FAA international training events such as Government Safety Inspection (GSI) courses. 

 The whistleblower disclosed that the International Program Division (AFS-50), a policy division of the FAA, has engaged in a pattern of unilaterally waiving pay, compensation, and benefits (PC&B) costs when charging foreign civil aviation authorities to host FAA international training events such as Government Safety Inspection (GSI) courses. The specific allegations include the following: 

• AFS-50 officials have unilaterally waived PC&B costs when teaching overseas courses in Singapore, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Mongolia, none of which are funded through appropriations and thus must be recouped from the requesting country; 

• 'These unilateral waivers represent violations of the Antideficiency Act, codified at 13 U.S.C.§1341, 49 U.S.C. § 40113(e), and FAA Order 2100.16(3)(a) 1; 1 


FAA: Transportation Employees Violates Training Policies in 2019

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The whistleblower disclosed that officials at the Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG), Lakewood, California, Seattle, Washington, and Kansas City, Missouri, engaged in conduct that may constitute a violation of law, rule, or regulation, gross mismanagement, and a substantial and specific danger to public safety. 


The whistleblower,  a former Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI), alleged that AEG has failed to adhere to FAA policy on training and accreditation requirements for inspectors and that this failure has resulted in the issuance of potentially deficient certificates for pilots and aircraft.  alleges FAA failures may have occurred in connection with Boeing 737 MAX 8 certifications. The allegations to be investigated include: 

• ASis on the Flight Standardization Board for the Gulfstream VII lacked On-the-Job Training (OJT) required by FAA Orders. See FAA Order 3410.19; • 11 out of 17 Operations ASls in the Seattle AEG have not completed required OJT and other formal training, and this may include ASis on the Operations Flight Standardization Board (FSB) assigned to review and certify the Boeing 737 MAX 8; • Four ASis in the AEG Long Beach Office and one ASI in the AEG Kansas City Office have not completed required formal training; • OJT for Operations ASis in AEG does not provide OJT tasks required to issue certain types of ratings in violation of FAA orders; • AEG Offices are not completing Qualification Assessments Required by FAA Order 3410.26, which requires review of ASI qualifications when they transfer between specialties; and • Unqualified A Sis administered hundreds of practical tests, known as "checkrides" that certified individuals to operate aircraft.   asserts that he began disclosing problems with AEG's ASI related failures in June 2018.   explained that because AEG ASis qualify and certify pilots who then can qualify other operators, the above referenced training deficiencies have potentially affecte

Pentagon: Ukraine Security Funds Withheld by Trump in 2019

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Pentagon Papers Whistleblower Says Trump is a 'Domestic Enemy of the Constitution,' Encourages Others to Come Forward.


Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, earlier in the day arrived for testimony and was expected to face questions about Trump’s decision this year to withhold $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine approved by Congress.


 U.S. envoy to EU told House committees that he believed White House meeting was conditioned on Ukraine opening investigations, his lawyer says.Taylor said he was told by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. envoy to the European Union, that Trump had linked the aid's release to public declarations by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that he would investigate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden's tenure on the board of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma, and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

William Taylor said he was told by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. envoy to the European Union, that Trump had linked the aid's release to public declarations by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that he would investigate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden's tenure on the board of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma, and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.



Veterans Administration Whistleblower Discloses Retaliation in 2019

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Veterans Affairs whistleblowers call for end to culture of retaliation


The VA has faced dozens of complaints from whistleblowers who say they were retaliated against for raising concerns about the quality of medical care for veterans or actions by agency officials, according to the agency that handles whistleblower complaints from federal employees. Aghevli and two other whistleblowers from the agency testified in front of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on Tuesday saying the agency has a culture of trying to silence or punish people who report problems.

A Department of Veterans Affairs health care worker said she received a letter from the agency on Monday notifying her that she would be terminated, just one day before she was scheduled to testify at a congressional hearing about how the VA treats other whistleblowers. 

Baltimore psychologist Minu Aghevli said she received the letter, which outlined the VA Maryland Health Care Center's proposal to terminate her employment, after working for the agency for nearly 20 years and raising concerns for years about the quality of patient care and manipulating wait lists in opioid treatment programs. In an earlier letter, the VA says she was facing disciplinary action for treating a patient at a non-VA hospital and violating the agency's code of conduct, but she and her lawyer argue the agency is retaliating against her for raising concerns about problems within the department

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Civil Rights Office at USDA in Need of Reform

Corruption Exposed in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

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A New Food Economy investigation found that USDA promoted misleading data to depict a fictional renaissance in black farming. That narrative falsely inflated the department's record on civil rights—and ultimately cost black farmers land, money, and agency.


A 2016 report from USDA shows that 86 percent of all microloans issued between 2013 and 2015 went to white farmers, and demonstrates that at least two-thirds went to white men. 

Vilsack also wrote about the 


Former Civil Rights Administrator Admits Corruption in te Office of the General Counsel

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In an interview with us, Joe Leonard claimed that he battled with OGC while he was assistant secretary. “I was always arguing with OGC for a more liberal interpretation of the law that could positively impact farmers,” he told us. “They were pushing to control the [civil rights] office.” When we asked him if OGC’s involvement was still a problem today, he asked, “What do you think?” He then answered his own question. “Of course it is! I mean, I’m not sure why you would … of course it is. I guarantee you OGC is making the majority of the decisions.


When we told Vilsack, in an email, that several current and former USDA employees had told us OGC was interfering in the civil rights process, he wrote back, “I am now and was as Secretary unaware of any effort by the OGC office to undermine the review process of Civil Rights complaints. I find it impossible to believe that either [of my general counsel] in their capacity as Général [sic] Counsel would have tolerated such conduct.”


The employees we talked to told us that OGC has been ruthless in its pursuit of victories for the department and that its influence over the civil rights process is profound. “They win at all costs,” one current employee said. “They make you very uncomfortable and they make you leave. They don’t want you there. This is what they do to their enemies. They all circle the wagons.”


Sexual Assault Still a Problem in the Federal Government

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Sexual assaults in military rise to more than 20,000, Pentagon survey says

In a setback for the U.S. military's efforts to reduce sexual assault in the military, a new Pentagon survey released Thursday shows the number of sexual assaults increased in 2018 to 20,500, almost the same levels as five years ago, a result that Pentagon officials say will lead to changes in its sexual assault prevention efforts. .

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USDA staffer shocks agency with public admission about sex for promotion

USDA's staff presentation left the audience “shellshocked,” said another employee. “It was something you would not imagine in a setting like this.” Several women went to comfort the distraught female employee but the audience could still hear her shouting as she was led backstage. (February 2018).

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Veterans Administration Retaliation is Still an Issue

VA Whistleblowers Tell Congress Retaliation Is Still Rampant June 25, 2019  

Government Executive reported in April that the VA inspector general was investigating the office for alleged whistleblower reprisal. Several VA employees who have been interviewed by IG investigators expressed frustration or anger toward the office, describing feelings of betrayal or neglect. They said they have shared information with the investigators, including documentation of alleged reprisal.         

Downloads

GAO United States Government Accountability Office Report to Congressional Committees


June 2018

OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL

Actions Needed to Improve Processing of Prohibited Personnel Practice and Whistleblower Disclosure Cases 

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