NO FEAR ACT SIGNING PROMPTS SPECIAL COUNSEL TO REMIND
AGENCIES OF STATUTORY OBLIGATION TO EDUCATE WORKFORCE
ABOUT THE WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 5/20/02
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
In the wake of last week’s enactment of the Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR), the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is now reminding federal agencies of their already-existing statutory obligation to provide employee education under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of 1994. No FEAR, among other things, requires agencies to make employees aware of discrimination and whistleblower protection laws. This provision largely mirrors the WPA’s requirement, at 5 U.S.C. § 2302(c), that federal agencies inform their employees of their rights under the prohibited personnel practice and whistleblower protection provisions of Title 5. The WPA adds, however, the requirement that agencies provide this information “in consultation” with OSC.
Earlier this year, OSC created an information and education program -- the 2302(c) Certification Program – to encourage federal agencies to meet their statutory obligations under the 1994 law. The program provides easy-to-use training methods for compliance with the law, with five requirements: 1) placing informational posters about prohibited personnel practice and whistleblower protections at agency facilities; 2) providing information about these protections to new employees as part of their orientation process; 3) providing periodic information to current employees about their rights and remedies under the WPA; 4) WPA training for supervisors; and 5) creation of a hyperlink from the agency’s website to OSC’s. Successful completion of the program will result in the issuance of a certificate of compliance, good for three years.
Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan stated, “The passage of the No FEAR Act reaffirms the strong public policy commitment to ensure that all federal employees feel free to come forward with allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct, by making sure that federal workers are aware of their rights. I encourage agencies to comply with the spirit of the new Act, as well as the Whistleblower Protection Act, by working with OSC to inform employees of their legal protections.” She noted that, “OPM was the first federal agency to participate in OSC’s Certification Program. I recently invited ten of the largest federal agencies to participate in the Program and already have received expressions of interest from seven of those agencies.” Kaplan went on to note that, “OSC intends to work with the appropriate agencies to ensure that guidance issued to implement the notification provisions of the No FEAR Act is coordinated with OSC’s Certification Program.”
Further information on OSC’s Certification Program can be found at OSC’s website, www.osc.gov. The Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency whose basic mission is to guard against prohibited personnel practices in the federal workplace, with a special emphasis on protecting government whistleblowers.