Whistleblower Rights and Protection
Overview of the OIG’s Whistleblower Ombudsperson Program
Employees of DOJ and its contractors, subcontractors, and grantees perform an important service by reporting what they reasonably believe to be evidence of wrongdoing, and they should never be subject to or threatened with reprisal for doing so. The OIG’s Whistleblower Ombudsperson program carries out a number of key functions, including:
- Educating DOJ employees and managers about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures, and employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies against retaliation for protected disclosures;
- Ensuring that the OIG is promptly and thoroughly reviewing complaints that it receives, and that it is getting back to whistleblowers in a timely fashion; and
- Coordinating with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, other agencies, and non-governmental organizations on relevant matters.
The OIG Whistleblower Ombudsperson program cannot act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate for any individual whistleblower.
Reports concerning wrongdoing in DOJ employees or programs should be submitted directly to the OIG Hotline.
For more information on whistleblower rights and protections, please see the the pamphlet prepared by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, “Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs” and the following video prepared by the OIG Whistleblower Ombudsperson program, which addresses frequently asked questions regarding whistleblower rights and protections.
For more information, you may contact the OIG Whistleblower Ombudsperson program.
How to File Whistleblower Reprisal Complaints
If an adverse personnel action has been taken or threatened against you in reprisal for making a disclosure of wrongdoing within your component, to the OIG, or elsewhere, you may submit a complaint to the OIG Hotline, or to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. 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 elsewhere. Allegations of reprisal regarding EEO matters generally should be addressed through the EEO process.
There are separate rules for employees of the FBI who wish to make a protected disclosure, and separate procedures for making a claim of reprisal for having previously made a protected disclosure. Claims of reprisal may be submitted 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, conduct investigation of such complaints in appropriate cases, and, if they find reasonable grounds to believe that there has been or will be reprisal for a protected disclosure, report their findings to the DOJ Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) for disposition. More information on OARM’s procedures is available at http://www.justice.gov/oarm/usdoj-oarm-fbi-whistleblowers.
Employees of Department of Justice Contractors, Subcontractors, Grantees, or Subgrantees or Personal Services Contractors
Under Title 41, United States Code, Section 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 whistleblower disclosure. Also, under Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-19), an action affecting access to classified information cannot be taken in reprisal for protected whistleblowing. The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of reprisal for whistleblowing by employees of DOJ contractors, subcontractors, grantees, or subgrantees or personal service contractors. For more information about whistleblower protections for such employees, please consult the informational brochure prepared by the OIG. Information about waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct, or whistleblower reprisal relating to a DOJ employee, program, contract, or grant may be reported to the OIG Hotline.
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)).