US flag signifying that this is a United States Federal Government website Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Whistleblower Protection

DHS employees, contractors, subcontractors, and grantees perform an important service by reporting what they reasonably believe to be evidence of wrongdoing, and the law protects them from threatened or actual reprisal for doing so. The OIG’s Whistleblower Protection program carries out a number of key functions, including: 

  • Through the work of the DHS Whistleblower Protection Coordinator, educating DHS employees and managers about prohibitions against retaliation against employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure, and about the remedies that may be available for employees retaliated against for protected disclosures;
  • Ensuring that the OIG is promptly and thoroughly reviewing complaints of whistleblower retaliation that it receives, and that it is responding 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 information and linked materials accessible from this page are intended to serve as educational tools for DHS employees and supervisors about whistleblower protections. 

WHO IS A WHISTLEBLOWER?

May be an employee, former employee, applicant, or contractor who discloses information that she/he reasonably believes is evidence of:

  • Violation of any law, rule or regulation;
  • Gross mismanagement;
  • Gross waste of funds;
  • Abuse of authority;
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

HOW TO FILE A REPORT OR A COMPLAINT OF RETALIATION

To file a complaint with the OIG, please submit the complaint through the OIG Hotline.

EMPLOYEES’ RIGHTS

If an adverse personnel action has been taken, or threatened against you, in reprisal for making a disclosure of wrongdoing within your DHS agency, to the OIG, or elsewhere, you may submit a complaint to the OIG Hotline or the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.  If you submit a complaint to the OIG, we will review the allegation to make a determination about whether DHS OIG will investigate the matter or refer the complaint to the suitable agency.

In certain instances, an employee who has experienced retaliation because of a protected communication may file an appeal directly with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Personnel actions that are directly appealable to the MSPB include adverse actions, retirement appeals, performance-based removals or reductions in grade, denials of within-grade salary increases, reduction-in-force actions, and denials of restoration of employment rights.

PROTECTION FOR EMPLOYEES WITH ACCESS TO CLASSIFIED INFORMATION  

Presidential Policy Directive-19 (PPD-19),“Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information,” requires DHS and other Federal agencies to establish a review process that enables an employee to appeal an action affecting the employee’s eligibility for access to classified information, if the employee believes the action was taken in reprisal for a protected disclosure of fraud, waste, and abuse. As part of the process, the employee may request the OIG to review the alleged reprisal.

WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION FOR GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS, SUBCONTRACTORS, PERSONAL SERVICES CONTRACTORS, GRANTEES, and SUBGRANTEES

Section 828 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 extended whistleblower protections to employees of government contractors, subcontractors, and grant recipients as part of a 4 year pilot program. Information about the program can be found at (41 U.S.C Section 4712). Under the pilot program, these employees were protected from reprisal for coming forward with information that they reasonably believe is evidence of gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant; a gross waste of Federal funds; an abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a Federal contract.  

On December 14, 2016 Congress passed Public Law 114-261, which permanently extends whistleblower protections to these employees. The new law also extends the protections to subgrantees and personal services contractors working on Federal defense and civilian contracts.

A contractor employee who reasonably believes that she/he has been subjected to prohibited reprisal may submit a complaint through the OIG Hotline 

More information for DHS contractors, subcontractors, personal services contractors and grantees is available here.

PROTECTION FOR UNIFORMED COAST GUARD MEMBERS

Protections are available to members of the armed forces under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (MWPA, 10 U.S.C. Section 1034). The MWPA requires uniformed members of the Coast Guard to report allegations of retaliation for whistleblowing to the DHS OIG no more than one year after learning of the retaliatory personnel action. You may report an allegation of retaliation through the OIG Hotline

DHS WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION COORDINATOR 

Tony R. Roberts is the DHS Whistleblower Protection Coordinator (WPC) and is located at the DHS-OIG.

Contact the WPC if you require Whistleblower Protection training, have questions regarding protected disclosures, or want information regarding rights and remedies of Whistleblowers.

To file a Whistleblower complaint with the DHS-OIG, please submit the complaint through the OIG Hotline

 

Where do I go to report wrongdoing?

Federal civilian employees have many ways to disclose wrongdoing. You may:

Current and former Federal civilian employees and employment applicants may confidentially report to the DHS OIG or OSC about any of the following types of wrongdoing:

  • Violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
  • Gross mismanagement;
  • Gross waste of funds;
  • Abuse of authority; or
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety

OSC protects Federal civilian employees who make disclosures to OSC or to an OIG. Uniformed members of the Coast Guard have protections available to them through the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (10 U.S.C. Section 1034) and 33 C.F.R. Part 53.

May I keep my identity confidential?

Yes. The OIG has a Hotline that allows employees to make confidential complaints and disclosures. Offices of Inspectors General are prohibited from disclosing an employee's identity without the employee's consent unless the OIG determines the disclosure is unavoidable or is compelled by a court order.

If you file a disclosure with the OSC, your identity will not be shared outside the OSC without your consent. OSC may disclose your identity only if the OSC determines that it is necessary because of an imminent danger to public health or safety of an imminent violation of any criminal law.

Are whistleblowers protected from retaliation?

Yes, The Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits retaliation. It is unlawful for agencies to take or threaten to take a personnel action against an employee because she/he disclosed wrongdoing. Significant personnel actions may include unfavorable performance reviews, demotions, suspensions, terminations, or revocations or downgrades of a security clearance.

The law prohibits retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint, grievance, or appeal
  • Assisting someone else to file or testifying on her/his behalf
  • Cooperating with or disclosing information to OSC or to an Office of Inspector General
  • Refusing to obey an unlawful order

Are disclosures to Congress protected?

Yes. Federal law has established that a Federal employee has the right to communicate with and provide information to Congress.

What do you do if you believe whistleblower retaliation has taken place?

If you reasonably believe an agency has retaliated against you because of whistleblowing, you may:

  • File a complaint with OSC, which can seek corrective action when warranted;
  • File a union grievance, if applicable; or
  • If you have been subject to a significant personnel action, you may file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and assert whistleblower retaliation as a defense.

There are special provisions with respect to retaliation in the form of revocation or downgrade of a Federal civilian employee's security clearance. An employee may report this type of retaliation through the OIG Hotline.

What do you do if you believe whistleblower retaliation has taken place?

If you reasonably believe an agency has retaliated against you because of whistleblowing, you may:

  • File a complaint with OSC, which can seek corrective action when warranted;
  • File a union grievance, if applicable; or
  • If you have been subject to a significant personnel action, you may file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and assert whistleblower retaliation as a defense.

There are special provisions with respect to retaliation in the form of revocation or downgrade of a Federal civilian employee's security clearance. An employee may report this type of retaliation through the OIG Hotline.

What relief is available to an employee who was retaliated against for whistleblowing?

  • Job restoration;
  • Reversal of suspensions and other adverse actions;
  • Back pay; and
  • Reasonable and foreseeable consequential damages, such as medical costs, attorney fees, and compensatory damages. In addition, damages may be awarded for attorney fees and expenses incurred due to retaliation.

Is a manager accountable for retaliating against a whistleblower?

Yes, the OSC may seek disciplinary action against any employee who commits a prohibited personnel practice.

If an agency fails to take disciplinary action, then OSC may bring a disciplinary action case to the MSPB against the employee who committed the prohibited personnel practice. If the MSPB finds that an individual has committed a prohibited personnel practice, it can order disciplinary action, including removal, reduction in grade, debarment from Federal employment for up to 5 years, suspension, reprimand, or a fine of up to $1,000.

Would you like to take a brief survey regarding our site?