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 1978, 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. 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).
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 The 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 Employers 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).
Employees of EPA Contractors, Subcontractors, Grantees, or Subgrantees or Personal Service Contractors
Under 41 U.S.C. § 4712, it is illegal for an employee of a federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor to be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for making a protected whistleblower disclosure. If you are an employee of an EPA contractor, subcontractor, grantee, subgrantee, or personal services contractor and believe you have been retaliated against for making a protected whistleblower disclosure, you may submit a retaliation complaint to the OIG Hotline. For more information about whistleblower protections for such employees, please review this whistleblower protection informational brochure.
Role of the Whistleblower Protection Coordinator
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 and the “Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act” of 2018 amended the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.) to require Inspectors General to designate a Whistleblower Protection Coordinator to educate agency employees about prohibitions against retaliation for protected disclosures. The acts strengthen protections 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.
The coordinator educates employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies against retaliation for protected disclosures – including the means by which employees may seek review of any allegation of reprisal, and the roles of the Office of Inspector General, the Office of Special Counsel, the Merit Systems Protection Board and any other relevant entities. Further, the coordinator assists the Inspector General in promoting the timely and appropriate handling and consideration of protected disclosures and allegations of reprisal, to the extent practicable, by the Inspector General. The coordinator cannot act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate of an employee or former employee.
Definition of Whistleblowing
|Disclosure made to:||Alleging:|
Any reported disclosures are reviewed by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. 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|
|Feeling Retaliated Against for Speaking Up?|
Environmental Protection Agency
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.
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