OMBUDSMAN FOR WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION
Whistleblower disclosures save lives as well as taxpayer dollars. They play a critical role in keeping our government honest, efficient and accountable. Recognizing that whistleblowers root out waste, fraud and abuse, and protect public health and safety, federal laws strongly encourage employees to disclose wrongdoing. Federal laws also protect whistleblowers from retaliation.
WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT (WPA)
The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) protects Federal employees and applicants for employment who lawfully disclose information they reasonably believe evidences:
- a violation of law, rule, or regulation;
- gross mismanagement;
- a gross waste of funds;
- an abuse of authority; or
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Under the WPA, certain federal employees may not take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, any personnel action against an employee or applicant for employment because of the employee or applicant’s protected whistleblowing.
WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ENHANCEMENT ACT (WPEA)
In 2012 Congress passed the WPEA into law to strengthen protections for Federal employees who report fraud, waste and abuse. The WPEA clarifies the scope of protected disclosures and establishes that the disclosure does not lose protection because:
- the disclosure was made to someone, including a supervisor, who participated in the wrongdoing disclosed;
- the wrongdoing being reported has previously been disclosed;
- of the employee’s motive for reporting the wrongdoing;
- the disclosure was made while the employee was off duty;
- the disclosure was made during the employee’s normal course of duty, if the employee can show that the personnel action was taken in reprisal for the disclosure; or because of
- the amount of time which has passed since the occurrence of the events described in the disclosure.
The WPEA protects disclosures that an employee reasonably believes are evidence of censorship related to research, analysis, or technical information that causes, or will cause, a gross government waste or gross mismanagement, an abuse of authority, a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or any violation of law. It expands the penalties imposed for violating whistleblower protections and establishes the position of Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman.
ENHANCEMENT OF CONTRACTOR PROTECTION FROM REPRISAL (41 U.S.C. § 4712)
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA), enacted a pilot program making it illegal for an employee of a Federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee to be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for making a protected whistleblower disclosure. In 2016, Congress amended the program to make those protections permanent.
Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, the Inspector General for the National Science Foundation established a Whistleblower Ombudsman to educate agency employees about prohibitions on retaliation for whistleblowing, as well as employees' rights and remedies if subjected to retaliation for making a protected disclosure.
The Ombudsman is prohibited by law from acting as a Whistleblower's representative, agent, or advocate.
The NSF Whistleblower Ombudsman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
WHISTLEBLOWER EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES
- Whistlebower Information for Contractors and Grantees
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel ITB YouTube Channel - Several videos on issues including Whistleblower Rights and Protections, the Hatch Act, and Prohibited Personnel Practices.
- MSPB - Blowing The Whistle: Barriers to Federal Employees Making Disclosures
- OPM - The New Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 and Prohibited Personnel Practices Video (1.5 hour video)
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel Brochure "Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs"
- The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012
Individuals who believe they have been improperly retaliated against may contact:
- The National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General:
Telephone: (800) 428-2189
Written correspondence: 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite II-705, Arlington, VA 22230
- The U.S. Office of Special Counsel. OSC is an independent agency enforcing whistleblower protections, safeguarding the merit system and providing a secure channel for whistleblower disclosures. Information on filing a complaint with OSC may be found at http://www.osc.gov.
- The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Certain employees may be able to appeal directly to MSPB. More information on whistleblower MSPB appeals is available at http://www.mspb.gov/appeals/whistleblower.htm.