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 OIG's Whistleblower Protection Program

Overview

Whistleblowers play a critical role in keeping our government honest, efficient, and accountable. A core value of OIG is protecting the diligent employees of the Commerce Department and its contractors and grantees who step forward to identify potential wrongdoing in their organizations from unlawful reprisal. The OIG designed this page, and the linked information accessible from this page, to educate Department of Commerce employees, contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, and personal service contractors about whistleblower protections and avenues for raising concerns.

Whistleblower Protection Ombudsperson Program

Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA),the OIG designated a Whistleblower Protection Ombudsperson. The Whistleblower Protection Ombudsperson's role is to educate Department of Commerce employees about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures, and their rights and remedies if retaliation occurs as a result of making protected disclosures.

For more information on whistleblower rights and protections for federal employees, please see the pamphlet prepared by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs or the Frequently Asked Questions prepared by the OIG.

DOC employees and other covered and protected employees may also contact the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsperson at 202.482.1099 or at wpo@oig.doc.gov.

Please note that the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsperson is not permitted to act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate for any individual whistleblower.

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 operating unit, to the OIG, or elsewhere, you may submit a complaint directly to the OIG Hotline, or to the Office of Special Counsel, which can seek disciplinary action against any employee who commits a prohibited personnel practice.

If you submit your complaint to the OIG, we will review whether it is appropriate for the OIG to investigate or whether another agency or division should process the complaint, and keep you informed. Please note that the OIG does not have the authority to investigate EEO complaints; the Department of Commerce’s Office of Civil Rights investigates EEO complaints.

Employees of Department of Commerce Contractors, Subcontractors, Grantees, or Subgrantees or Personal Services Contractors

Under 41 U.S.C. § 4712, it is illegal for employees of federal contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, or personal services contractors to be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for making a protected whistleblower disclosure. The DOC OIG has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of whistleblower reprisal against employees of DOC contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, or personal service contractors. For more information about whistleblower protections for such employees, please consult the informational brochure prepared by the OIG.

The OIG Hotline receives information about waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct, or whistleblower reprisal relating to a DOC employee, program, contract, or grant.

Whistleblower Protection Agency Certification

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) certified the OIG to conduct training and promotion of the provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-454, 92 Stat. 1111; Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Pub. L. No. 101-12, 103 Stat. 16; Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-119, 126 Stat. 1465, and other related laws. In 1994, Congress responded to reports of widespread ignorance in the federal workforce concerning employees' right to be free from prohibited personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistleblowing, by enacting 5 U.S.C. § 2302(c). That provision charges "[t]he head of each agency" with responsibility for "ensuring (in consultation with the Office of Special Counsel) that agency employees are informed of the rights and remedies available to them" under the prohibited personnel practice and whistleblower retaliation protection provisions of Title 5. OSC's Section 2302(c) Certification Program allows federal agencies to meet the statutory obligation to inform their workforces about the rights and remedies available to them under the Whistleblower Protection Act and related civil service laws. Under OSC's Section 2302(c) Certification Program, OSC will certify an agency's compliance with 5 U.S.C. § 2302(c) if the agency meets the following five requirements:

  • Placing informational posters at agency facilities;
  • Providing information about prohibited personnel practices and the WPA to new employees as part of the orientation process;
  • Providing information to current employees about prohibited personnel practices and the WPA;
  • Training supervisors on prohibited personnel practices and the WPA; and
  • Creation of a link from the agency’s website to OSC’s website.

    Nondisclosure Agreements

    Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, the following statement applies to every nondisclosure policy, form, or agreement of the Government (with current or former federal 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 following Executive orders and statutory provisions are controlling in the case of any conflict with an agency non-disclosure policy, form, or agreement:

    • Executive Order No. 13,526 (Dec. 29, 2009);
    • 5 U.S.C. § 7211 (governing disclosures to Congress);
    • Military Whistleblower Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. § 1034, as amended (governing disclosure to Congress and Inspectors General by members of the military);
    • 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8), as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Pub. L. No. 101-12, 103 Stat. 16 (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 18 U.S.C. §§  641, 793, 794, 798, and 952; and
    • Section 4(b) of the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950, 50 U.S.C. 783(b).