U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL AND OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT LAUNCH PILOT PROGRAM TO EDUCATE EMPLOYEES ABOUT THE WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 3/14/02
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced today that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has agreed to pilot an OSC program through which federal agencies can meet their statutory obligation to inform employees about the rights and remedies available to them under the prohibited personnel practice and whistleblower retaliation provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The creation of such programs, in consultation with OSC, was made mandatory by section 2302(c) of Title 5, which was enacted in 1994. Surveys conducted by OSC, however, have revealed that many agencies are unaware of their statutory obligations and that compliance with the requirement is not widespread.
Under the program, OSC will certify an agency’s compliance with section 2302(c) if it meets five requirements. These include: 1) placing informational posters about WPA protections at agency facilities; 2) providing information about these 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 computer link from the agency’s web site to OSC’s.
OPM Director Kay Coles James agreed last fall to make OPM the first federal agency to implement the OSC program. The joint appearance by Director James and Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan at a training session for OPM managers earlier today underscores the importance that both agencies place upon this undertaking. OSC hopes to begin to introduce the program government-wide later this year.
In announcing the program, Special Counsel Kaplan stated, “We are very pleased to join with OPM in launching this important program. OPM’s leadership role
in protecting merit system principles makes it the ideal testing ground for an educational program about the Whistleblower Protection Act. I am very grateful to Director James for her willingness to volunteer OPM as the lead agency to pilot this effort.”
In endorsing the program, OPM Director James stated, “I truly believe that government will better serve the citizens of our nation, when retaliation is eliminated, when employees feel free to report wrongdoing, and when employees and managers work together to uphold merit system principles.”
The Office of Special Counsel 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 prosecute a petition for corrective and/or disciplinary action before the Merit Systems Protection Board. OSC also operates an outreach program, designed to assist federal agencies in informing employees about their rights and remedies under the Whistleblower Protection Act, and related laws.