Retaliation against whistleblowers is a prohibited personnel practice under civil service laws, and managers who retaliate may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including removal.
A Protected Disclosure indicates the disclosure of information which the employee reasonably believes provides evidence of:
- A violation of law, rule, or regulation,
- Gross mismanagement,
- Gross waste of funds,
- An abuse of authority, or
- A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
A disclosure is protected even if the whistleblower is wrong, so long as the whistleblower reasonably believed the disclosure was correct.
How to File Whistleblower Retaliation Complaints
If an adverse personnel action has been taken or threatened against you in retaliation for making a disclosure of wrongdoing within your office, to the OIG, or elsewhere, you may submit a complaint to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) or to the OIG Hotline. Allegations of reprisal regarding equal employment opportunity (EEO) matters generally should be addressed through the EEO process.
The OSC fact sheet “Your Rights as a Federal Employee” provides detailed information on the thirteen prohibited personnel practices—including whistleblower retaliation—and employees’ rights to file complaints with OSC. The OSC publications “Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs” and “The Role of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel,” provide more detail on this important topic. The OSC website also has a number of informative videos.
Handling Classified Information
Employees may report on information required by Executive Order to be kept classified or by law to be restricted in circulation (for example, trade secrets or Privacy Act protected material) but only if disclosed to (1) the Special Counsel, (2) the inspector general of an agency, (3) Congress, or (4) another employee of the agency who is designated to receive such a disclosure.