U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL AWARDS THE U.S. MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD 2302(c) CERTIFICATION FOR COMPLETION OF WHISTLEBLOWER EDUCATION PROGRAM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 9/5/02
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced today that the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has been awarded 2302(c) certification for completing OSC’s program to educate federal employees about their rights and remedies under the provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). This action results in MSPB becoming the second federal agency to be certified by OSC as being in compliance with § 2302(c) of Title 5. In May of 2002, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) became the first agency to be certified, after OPM Director
Kay Coles James volunteered her agency as the pilot agency for testing OSC’s program.
The creation of whistleblower education programs by federal agencies, in consultation with OSC, was mandated by Congress in 1994. Recently, President George W. Bush signed into law another measure, the Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR), that also requires federal agencies to make employees aware of whistleblower protection laws. OSC is participating in a multi-agency effort to develop guidance to agencies on compliance with that new law.
In an effort to assist agencies in meeting the requirement of Title 5, OSC has designed and created a five-step educational program, the 2302(c) Certification Program. Under the program, OSC will certify an agency’s compliance with
§ 2302(c) if it meets five requirements: 1) placing informational posters about the WPA at agency facilities; 2) providing information about WPA 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) providing WPA training for supervisors; and 5) creating a hyper link from the agency’s web site to OSC’s.
This spring, OSC invited nine large agencies to participate in the 2302(c) Certification Program. Thus far, the response has been positive with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Navy, the Department of Army, the Department of Air Force, and the Bureau of Prisons, indicating interest in OSC certification. OSC plans to offer the certification program government-wide in October of 2002.
In accepting the certificate, MSPB Chairman Susanne T. Marshall stated that, “given MSPB’s mission in enforcing merit system principles, I feel that it is particularly important that we lead by example.” Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan stated, “I truly appreciate MSPB’s taking the initiative to call us and ask to participate in this program. It’s my hope that other agencies will follow the lead of OPM and the MSPB by taking part in our certification program. Now, more than ever, it is important for agency leadership to send out the message that whistleblower protection is a priority in the federal workplace.”
The Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging the commission of prohibited personnel practices by government agencies, including whistleblower retaliation. In cases where an OSC investigation reveals reasonable grounds to believe a prohibited personnel practice has been committed, and an agency declines to voluntarily provide relief to a complainant, OSC may prosecute a petition for corrective and/or disciplinary action before the MSPB. OSC also operates an outreach program, designed to assist federal agencies in informing employees about their rights and remedies under the WPA and related laws.