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Office of Inspector General

Whistleblower Protection

What is the EPA OIG?

The Office of Inspector General is an independent organization that performs audits and investigations of the EPA and its contractors to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse. Learn more

Whistleblower Protection


Confidentiality, Anonymity, & Whistleblower Protection

The IG Act and other pertinent laws protect persons making Hotline complaints.

Complaints Made by EPA Employees

In accordance with section 7(b) of the Inspector General Act of 1978EXIT as amended, the OIG shall not, after receipt of a complaint or information from an EPA employee, disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee unless the Inspector General determines such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of an investigation. Any identifying information is confidential source material, and OIG employees must not disclose such information except to other OIG employees who have a need to know in connection with their official duties.

Complaints Made by Other Persons

Complainants who are not EPA employees do not have an automatic right to confidentiality under section 7(b) of the Inspector General Act of 1978.EXIT However, non-EPA employees may specifically request confidentiality, and the OIG will protect the confidentiality of such complainants to the maximum extent permitted by law (for example, by using applicable exemptions and exclusions of the Freedom of Information Act and applicable exemptions of the Privacy Act).

Anonymity

If you do not wish to disclose your identity, you may remain anonymous when contacting the OIG. However, please keep in mind that anonymity may impede a quick or thorough investigation or the success of a later prosecution.

Whistleblower Protection Act

The following links exit the site EXITThe Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPA) and the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 Enhanced by the Act of 2012 provides protection rights for Federal employees against retaliation for whistleblowing activities. Under WPA, Federal employees may seek whistleblower protection from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). OSC is an independent executive agency whose responsibilities include investigating whistleblowers' complaints and litigating cases before the MSPB. MSPB has the authority to enforce their decision and to order corrective and disciplinary actions. Actions ordered can include restoring one's job, reversing suspensions, taking disciplinary action against a supervisor, and reimbursing attorney fees, medical and other costs, and damages.

Protection Under Environmental Statutes

Whistleblower protection provisions are written into six environmental statutes:

  • Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • Clean Air Act (CAA)
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
  • Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

The following links exit the site EXITEmployers subject to the provisions of the above statutes may not discriminate against any employee who engages in whistleblowing activities related to the above statutes. The Department of Labor has found that Federal employees may be covered by these protections. Complaints may be filed with the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman


Role of the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 EXIT was signed into law on November 27, 2012. The Act strengthens protection for federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse in government operations.

Whistleblower disclosures can save lives as well as billions of 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.

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 directs Inspectors General to designate a Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman. The Ombudsman’s role is to educate agency employees about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures, and educate agency employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies against retaliation for protected disclosures. The Ombudsman is prohibited from acting as an employee’s or former employee’s legal representative, agent, or advocate.

Definition of Whistleblowing

Disclosure made to: Alleging:
  • U.S. Office of Special Counsel
  • EPA Inspector General
  • A supervisor or higher EPA manager
  • A violation of any law, rule, or regulation,
  • Gross mismanagement,
  • A gross waste of funds,
  • An abuse of authority,
  • A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety

​Any reported disclosures are reviewed by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel EXIT. OSC will evaluate the allegation(s) to determine whether it fits within those types of allegations listed above and whether it is substantially likely that any such allegation can be proven.

If OSC determines that the substantially likely standard is met, OSC will refer the matter back to the originating agency for investigation by the Inspector General. The IG will submit a report of its findings to OSC and the whistleblower gets to submit comments on this report. OSC will make comments on the IG report and recommendations based on the IG’s findings before sending it to the President and the appropriate congressional oversight committee(s).

Whistleblowers are Protected

It is a prohibited personnel practice for management to retaliate against whistleblowing federal employees. OSC receives, investigates, and prosecutes allegations of prohibited personnel practice, with an emphasis on protecting federal government whistleblowers and other complainants. The federal workforce has been protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. That law, however, contained loopholes and was open to interpretations that were contrary to the interests of whistleblowers. Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 to close these loopholes and clarify the interpretations, strengthening protections for whistleblowers.

A Few of the Enhancements
  • Boost the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s capability to pursue disciplinary action against managers who
    retaliate against whistleblowing employees.
  • Provide for the awarding of enhanced monetary damages to whistleblower employees found to be victimized
    by a prohibited personnel practice. OSC seeks corrective action remedies (such as back pay and reinstatement)
    by negotiation or from the Merit Systems Protection Board for injuries suffered by whistleblowers.
  • Clarifying and expanding the nature of reports made by whistleblowers that are protected disclosures
    entitling the reporting employee to whistleblower protection.
  • Extends whistleblower protections to now applicable federal employees, employees of federal contractors, and grantees.

National Defense Authorization Act enhancements

The FY 13 National Defense Authorization Act contains provisions that essentially extend whistleblower protections, now applicable to Federal employees, to private sector based Federal contractors and grantees. These provisions, as applicable to DOD are final. For the rest of the Federal government, it is a four-year pilot program.

Feeling Retaliated Against for Speaking Up?
  1. File a complaint with OSC; or
  2. File a Union grievance; or
  3. If facing a significant personnel action, file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board and raise whistleblower retaliation as a defense to the personnel action.

Contact the EPA Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman

Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General
Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20460

whistleblower_protection@epa.gov
(202) 566-1513 

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OIG Independence of EPA

The EPA's Office of Inspector General is a part of the EPA, although Congress provides our funding separate from the agency, to ensure our independence. We were created pursuant to the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended Exit.

Environmental Protection Agency  |  Office of Inspector General
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. (2410T)  |  Washington, DC 20460  |  (202) 566-2391
OIG Hotline: 1-888-546-8740.