Whistleblower Rights and Protections

Whistleblowers perform an important service for the public and the Department of Justice (DOJ) when they report evidence of wrongdoing. All DOJ employees, contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, and personal services contractors are protected from retaliation for making a protected disclosure A disclosure is protected if it is based on a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred and if the disclosure is made to a person or entity that is authorized to receive it.. Reports concerning wrongdoing by DOJ employees or within DOJ programs can always be submitted directly to the OIG Hotline.

If you have any questions about any of the information on this web page, or are concerned that you have experienced retaliation for blowing the whistle, you may contact the OIG’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator for additional information. You may also consult the web site of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), or review this OSC pamphlet,“Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs.”

VIDEO: WHISTLEBLOWER RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS

Generally, reports concerning wrongdoing by DOJ employees or within programs should be submitted directly to the OIG Hotline.

For more information about how to make a protected disclosure, how to file a retaliation complaint, and what to expect if you have filed a retaliation complaint, watch the DOJ OIG’s 3-part video series “Whistleblower Rights and Protections.”


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VIDEO 1:
Report Wrongdoing
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VIDEO 2:
What Happens When You Decide to Come Forward
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VIDEO 3:
After a Whistleblower Makes a Report

View Transcript | Download Video 1  2  3

HOW TO MAKE A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE

It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for making a “protected disclosure.” A disclosure is protected if it meets two criteria:

  1. The disclosure must be based on a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred. As explained in the chart below, the definition of wrongdoing varies slightly depending on your place of employment.

  2. The disclosure must also be made to a person or entity that is authorized to receive it. Employees who reasonably believe they have evidence of wrongdoing are always protected for submitting that information to the OIG Hotline. However, as explained in the chart below, the other authorized audiences are different, depending on your place of employment.
  Wrongdoing Defined Authorized Audiences
DOJ Employees Violation of any law, rule or regulation;

Gross mismanagement;

Gross waste of funds;

Abuse of authority; and

Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
In general, employees may disclose information to anyone, including non-governmental audiences, unless the information is classified or specifically prohibited by law from release.

However, if the information is classified or specifically prohibited by law from release, it may only be shared with the OIG, OSC, or a designated agency official.
FBI Employees Same as for other DOJ employees. For all disclosures, classified or unclassified, an FBI employee is only protected if the disclosure is made to:

(A) A supervisor in the direct chain of command of the employee, up to and including the head of the employing agency;

(B) to the Inspector General;

(C) to the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Department of Justice;

(D) to the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation;

(E) to the Inspection Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation;

(F) as described in section 7211;

(G) to the Office of Special Counsel; or

(H) to an employee designated by any officer, employee, office, or division described in subparagraphs (A) through (G) for the purpose of receiving such disclosures
Contractors and Grantees Gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant;

Gross waste of Federal funds,

Abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant,

Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or

Violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a Federal contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant.
For all disclosures, classified or unclassified, an employee of a contractor or grantee is only protected if the disclosure is made to:

(A) A Member of Congress or a representative of a committee of Congress.

(B) An Inspector General.

(C) The Government Accountability Office.

(D) A Federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant agency.

(E) An authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency.

(F) A court or grand jury.

(G) A management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, or grantee who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct.

Disclosing Classified Information

A disclosure of waste, fraud, or abuse that includes classified information is not a protected disclosure under the whistleblower laws unless the disclosure is made in accordance with the laws and rules that govern the proper handling and transmission of classified information. For example, you are not protected for disclosing classified information to an unauthorized recipient, even if you reasonably believe the information is evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse. You can make a protected disclosure of classified information to the OIG, but the information may not be transmitted using the OIG’s unclassified hotline. For more information on how to properly provide classified information to the OIG, please contact the OIG’s hotline at (800) 869-4499 or the OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.

In addition, section 8H of the Inspector General Act sets forth a detailed process for employees in the Intelligence Community, including FBI employees and employees of FBI contractors, who intend to provide classified information to Congress. Prior to initiating a report of classified information under section 8H of the Inspector General Act, the employee should carefully review the Inspector General Act’s provisions or contact the OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator for additional information.

HOW TO REPORT RETALIATION OR REPRISAL FOR BLOWING THE WHISTLE

No one should ever be subject to or threatened with reprisal for coming forward with a protected disclosure A disclosure is protected if it is based on a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred and if the disclosure is made to a person or entity that is authorized to receive it.. It is unlawful for any personnel action to be taken against you because of your whistleblowing. If you believe you have been retaliated against for making a protected disclosure, you may file a retaliation complaint, under the guidelines below.

Information for DOJ Employees

If you are a DOJ employee, you may submit a retaliation complaint to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) or through the OIG Hotline. OSC has primary jurisdiction over retaliation complaints for most federal employees, including all DOJ employees other than those employed by the FBI. OSC has unique authorities, including the ability to seek a temporary stay of a pending personnel action, and can seek to correct a retaliatory personnel action on your behalf. If you submit your complaint to the OIG, we will review it and let you know whether it is appropriate for the OIG to investigate or whether it should be referred to OSC or elsewhere.

Allegations of reprisal regarding EEO matters generally should be addressed through the EEO process.

Information for FBI Employees

OSC does not have jurisdiction over retaliation complaints by FBI employees. The procedures for handling allegations of whistleblower retaliation of FBI employees are different than retaliation allegations of other DOJ employees. If you are an employee of the FBI, you may submit a retaliation complaint to the OIG Hotline, or to the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The OIG or the OPR will review reprisal complaints made by FBI employees and conduct investigations of such complaints in appropriate cases. The OIG and OPR report their findings to the DOJ Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) for disposition. More information on OARM’s procedures is available at https://www.justice.gov/oarm/usdoj-oarm-fbi-whistleblowers.

Information for Employees of DOJ Contractors, Subcontractors, Grantees, or Subgrantees or Personal Services Contractors

If you are an employee of a DOJ contractor, subcontractor, grantee, subgrantee, or a DOJ personal services contractor, you may submit a retaliation complaint to the OIG Hotline. Under 41 U.S.C. § 4712, it is illegal for an employee of a federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor to be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for making a protected disclosure A disclosure is protected if it is based on a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred and if the disclosure is made to a person or entity that is authorized to receive it.. For more information about whistleblower protections for such employees, please consult the informational brochure prepared by the OIG.

Information for Reporting Retaliatory Security Clearance Action

If you are a DOJ employee, including FBI employees and DOJ contractors and grantees, and believe an action affecting your security clearance was retaliatory, you may submit a reprisal complaint to the OIG Hotline. The National Security Act of 1947 and Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19) make it unlawful for an agency to take any action affecting an employee’s eligibility for access to classified information in reprisal for making a protected disclosure.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Whistleblower Protection Coordinator

The Inspector General Act requires the DOJ OIG to designate an individual to serve as the OIG’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator. The OIG’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator carries out a number of key functions, including:

  • Educating DOJ employees and managers about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures;
  • Educating employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies available to them;
  • Ensuring that the OIG is promptly and thoroughly reviewing complaints that it receives, and that it is communicating effectively with whistleblowers throughout the process; and
  • Coordinating with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, other agencies, and non-governmental organizations on relevant matters.

The OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator cannot act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate for any individual whistleblower.

For more information, you may contact the OIG Whistleblower Coordinator program.

Nondisclosure Agreements

Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, the following statement applies to non-disclosure policies, forms, or agreements of the federal government with current or former employees, including those in effect before the Act’s effective date of December 27, 2012:

“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.”

The controlling Executive Orders and statutory provisions in the event of any conflict with a non-disclosure policy, form, or agreement include, as of March 14, 2013:

  • Executive Order No. 13526 (governing classified national security information);
  • Section 7211 of Title 5, United States Code (governing disclosures to Congress);
  • Section 1034 of Title 10, United States Code as amended by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (governing disclosure to Congress by members of the military);
  • Section 2302(b)(8) of Title 5, United States Code, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (governing disclosures of illegality, waste, fraud, abuse or public health or safety threats);
  • Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 U.S.C. 421 et seq.) (governing disclosures that could expose confidential Government agents);
  • The statutes which protect against disclosure that may compromise the national security, including Sections 641, 793, 794, 798, and 952 of Title 18, United States Code; and
  • Section 4(b) of the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 (50 U.S.C. 783(b)).