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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) (5 USC § 2302(b)(8)) was established to ensure that employees and applicants who disclose allegations of serious wrongdoing or gross mismanagement are free from fear of reprisal for their disclosures. The WPA also provides remedies if an employee is subjected to reprisal for covered disclosures, and provides penalties for supervisors who retaliate against Whistleblowers.

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Who Is Covered?

The WPA protects federal employees and applicants for employment. (Note: Employees of federal contractors and grantees are not covered by the WPA.)

What Is A Protected Disclosure?

A disclosure is protected under the WPA if the employee discloses information the employee reasonably believes to be true, in the following areas:

  • a violation of any law, rule, or regulation,
  • mismanagement,
  • a gross waste of funds,
  • an abuse of authority, or
  • a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Can An Employee Making a New Disclosure Remain Anonymous?

When making a disclosure to OIG via the Hotline, the employee has the ability to remain anonymous. The employee should include as much detail as possible regarding the violation, in order to allow OIG to evaluate the disclosure for investigation.

An employee may also request confidentiality, i.e. that OIG not disclose the employee’s name outside HUD OIG. HUD OIG will not disclose the employee’s identity unless disclosure is unavoidable as part of the investigation.

What Constitutes Retaliation?

Retaliation occurs when the employee’s disclosure influences the employer to “take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action with respect to [the] employee or applicant for employment.” A personnel action is broadly defined to include ratings, details, promotions, demotions, termination, access to training, etc.

How Can I Report Retaliation And Obtain A Remedy?

The Office of Special Counsel is the entity tasked by Congress to investigate whistleblower retaliation against federal employees. OSC has authority to demand the agency undo any retaliation, compensate the employee suffering reprisal, and to take action against the retaliating supervisor. Also, OSC can initiate an act against the agency if it refuses to undo the reprisal.

An employee who believes they have been retaliated against may file a complaint on the OSC website or mail a complaint to OSC, 1730 M Street, N.W., Ste. 218, Washington, D.C., 20036, or you may fax it to (202) 254-3711.

What Should Supervisors and Managers Know?

Supervisors should receive training on how to respond to complaints of whistleblower retaliation. A supervisor who engages in whistleblower retaliation may be subject to a minimum suspension of 3 days, and removal if the supervisor retaliates a second time.

Whistleblower protections are not intended to prevent otherwise meritorious personnel actions by the supervisor. Where a supervisor aware of covered disclosures by an employee, the supervisor should consult with HR staff when taking any personnel action regarding the disclosing employee.

Who Can I Contact For More Information?

Congress requires each OIG to designate a Whistleblower Protection Coordinator (WPC). The WPC educates HUD employees on prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures. Additionally, the WPC educates employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about their rights and about remedies against retaliation for protected disclosures. The WPC is not a legal representative, advocate, or agent of the employee or former employee.

To contact HUD OIG’s WPC, email whistleblower@hudoig.gov