The U.S. State Department Office of Inspector General Whistleblower Program allows individuals - Federal employees, employees of a Federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, subgrantee, and personnel services contractors - to report fraud, waste, abuse, or misconduct to safeguard the government and the public against wrongdoing. Whistleblowers perform an essential service to the Department of State, U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), and U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) in keeping government operations honest, efficient, and accountable. Whistleblowers are also protected from retaliation when reporting potential wrongdoing. It is important to note that different rules apply to Federal employee whistleblowers versus Federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, subgrantee employee and personnel services contractor whistleblowers.
Who is a Department of State, USAGM, or USIBWC Federal Employee Whistleblower?
A Federal employee who reports information he/she reasonably believes is:
- A violation of any law, rule, or regulation
- Gross mismanagement: substantial risk of significant adverse impact on mission
- Gross waste of funds: more than a debatable expenditure
- Abuse of authority: an arbitrary decision for personal gain and/or to injure others, or
- A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Although these definitions may appear simple, the analysis of whistleblower cases can be factually and legally complicated.
Federal employees can report wrongdoing (also known as a Protected Disclosure) to:
- U.S. State Department - Office of Inspector General (State OIG)
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
- Congressional Committee
- Another employee designated by the Department, USAGM, USIBWC to receive such disclosures.
Federal employees are also protected if they make a disclosure to other individuals or organizations, such as the media, as long as they are not revealing information that is classified or otherwise protected.
Who is a Department of State, USAGM, or USIBWC Federal Contractor and Grantee Whistleblower?
A Federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, subgrantee, or personal services contractor (Contractor/Grantee) employee who reports information he/she reasonably believes is:
- Gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant
- Gross waste of Federal funds
- Abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant
- Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, and
- Violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a Federal contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant.
Contractor/Grantee employees can make a Protected Disclosure to:
- U.S. State Department - Office of Inspector General (State OIG)
- A member of Congress, or a representative of a committee of Congress
- U.S. Government Accountability Office
- A Federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant agency
- An authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency
- A court or grand jury, or
- A management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, or grantee who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct.
Disclosures involving classified information should be made in accordance with applicable laws, and individuals should consult with OIG to ensure that such disclosures are made appropriately.
Federal law protects individuals from retaliation (reprisal) for reporting potential misconduct or alleged criminal activities. The law prohibits retaliation against either Federal employee or Contractor/Grantee whistleblowers (including personal services contractors and employees of subcontractors and subgrantees) for reporting wrongdoing.
For Federal employees, reprisal can come in the form of a prohibited personnel practice which occurs when a person with authority takes, fails to take or threatens to take a personnel action against an employee because of the employee’s protected disclosure and can include details, transfers, reassignments, and significant changes in duties, responsibilities, or working conditions.
Similarly, it is illegal for a Contractor/Grantee employee to be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for making a protected whistleblower disclosure.
Lastly, under Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19), no action affecting access to classified information can be taken in reprisal for protected whistleblowing for either Federal or Contractor/Grantee employees.
What Can I Do if I Believe Retaliation Has Occurred After Making a Protected Disclosure?
Both Federal employee and Contractor/Grantee whistleblowers can file a reprisal complaint via the internet, telephone, or mail, against an employer for unlawful retaliation.
If you are a Department of State, USAGM, or USIBWC Federal employee, you may submit a retaliation complaint through either to the OSC or the State OIG Hotline. OSC has primary jurisdiction over retaliation complaints for most federal employees, including all Department of State, USAGM, and USIBWC employees. OSC has unique authorities, including the ability to seek a temporary stay of a pending personnel action, and can seek to correct a retaliatory personnel action on your behalf. If you submit your complaint to State OIG, State OIG will review your complaint and then communicate with you whether your complaint is appropriate for State OIG to investigate or whether it should be referred to the OSC or elsewhere.
U.S. Department of State
Office of Inspector General
P.O. Box 9778
Arlington, VA 22219
1-800-409-9926 or 1-202-647-3320
For both Federal employee and Contractor/Grantee whistleblowers, confidentiality is automatically granted for any complaints made to State OIG. It is important to note State OIG is legally required to preserve confidentiality, while other reporting channels may not be bound by these requirements.
Individuals who file a whistleblower complaint with State OIG can do so anonymously or request confidentiality. State OIG will only disclose a complainant's identity with their consent or if it determines that disclosure is unavoidable during the course of an investigation or otherwise required by law.
However, it is important to know that if you file a complaint of whistleblower retaliation with State OIG, State OIG may not be able to investigate the complaint unless you choose to waive confidentiality. For State OIG to proceed with a retaliation complaint, the whistleblower’s employer must be contacted. For Contractor/Grantee employees, the Department of State, USAGM may need to also be contacted as part of the investigative process.
U.S. Department of State - Office of Inspector General (State OIG)
A Whistleblower Protection Coordinator is available to discuss the protections against retaliation and how to make a protected disclosure, but cannot act as a legal representative or advocate for any individual whistleblower. Email the State OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator at [email protected]