FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 11/7/02
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced today the government-wide roll out of its whistleblower education and information program, designed to assist agency heads in meeting the statutory obligation of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), 5 U.S.C. ß 2302(c). Under the WPA, agency heads are responsible for informing employees about the rights and remedies available to them under the prohibited personnel practice and whistleblower retaliation provisions of that Act. Despite the fact that this statutory obligation has existed since 1994, OSC has found that many agencies are unsure how to meet their obligation, and compliance with the WPA has not been widespread.
OSCís new ď2302(c) Certification ProgramĒ offers guidance on compliance with the WPA and provides easy-to-use methods and training resources to fulfill its requirement. These include: 1) placing informational posters about WPA protections at agency facilities; 2) providing information about WPA protections to new employees as part of the orientation process; 3) 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 agency websites to OSCís. Under the program, once these steps are completed, OSC will issue a certificate of compliance, good for three years, and report the agencyís compliance on OSCís website and to Congress in its annual report.
Two agencies, the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board, seeking to be role model agencies for federal employment practices, completed the program during its pilot phase. In addition, last spring, OSC invited ten of the largest federal agencies to participate in the program. Eight of these agencies have enrolled in the program and several others have joined at their own initiative. (A list of agencies participating in the program can be found at OSCís website: www.osc.gov under the 2302(c) Certification Programís button.) Participation in the program will also satisfy the requirement of recently-enacted Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act (No FEAR) that federal workers be notified of their WPA retaliation rights.
In issuing her invitation to all agency heads to join the 2302(c) program, Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan stated, ďIn this time of increased focus on organizational behavior and ethics, as well as a time of heightened attention to our national security, management should send out the message not only that agency employees will be protected against retaliation when they come forward to raise concerns, but that they are affirmatively encouraged to do so. Participation in OSCís program sends out that message.Ē
In correspondence, dated November 1, 2002, Special Counsel Kaplan wrote to each federal agency head and invited their departmentís participation in the program. She requested that they send designated representatives to OSC to learn more about the program in orientation sessions scheduled for December 3rd, 4th and 5th.
OSC is an independent federal agency that investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging the commission of prohibited personnel practices by federal 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 file a petition for corrective and/or disciplinary action before the Merit Systems Protection Board.