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3.5 Whistleblower Protection

HHS, Assistant Secretary for Administration, Office of Human Resources (OHR), Strategic Programs Division (SPD) will oversee the coordination and implementation of the 2302(c) Certification Program for the Department.  The Department has over 70,000 employees located throughout the United States and in at least 12 international locations.

To date, the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) established the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman (WPO) as required by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012.  WPO’s comprehensive webpage includes rights and remedies of potential whistleblowers and the responsibilities of HHS supervisors; other frequently asked questions; and links to the OIG Hotline, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). http://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/whistleblower/

The Department plans to register to obtain 2302(c) certification from OSC by August 31, 2014, and expects to satisfy all certification requirements by December 31, 2015. 

The overall plan for obtaining certification for the Department includes coordination with seven servicing human resources offices.  This team approach is required considering the number and locations of HHS employees throughout the world. 

  • Identify points of contact from each operating/staff division to gather information on their current procedures, educate them on the 2302(c) certification program and their role, and coordinate requirements for local 2302(c) compliance (July 31, 2014). The designated contact will be responsible for ensuring compliance for the areas and locations served and reporting to SPD annually.
  • Add information to OHR’s webpage to include educational resources, contact information, and links to the OSC and other relevant websites.  (January 2015)
  • Issue an email blast from the Secretary to all employees informing them of their rights and remedies.  The email will include links to information required (http://www.osc.gov/outreachRequirementsCertification.htm) for distribution under the 2302(c) certification program (e.g., Your Rights as a Federal Employee, Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrong, etc.) (March 2015) This email blast will be issued annually.
  • Issue an email blast from the Secretary to all managers and supervisors informing them of the prohibited personnel practices (PPP) and the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), training requirements, and a link to the required training. (October 2015)
  • Set-up automatic notification through the HHS Learning Portal to ensure training is provided to and completed by supervisors and managers every three years.  (October 2015)

In addition to HHS plans, OIG is pursuing its own certification. OIG plans to register to obtain 2302(c) certification from OSC by June 30, 2014 and expects to satisfy all certification requirements by December 31, 2014.  The OIG already meets two of the five requirements for obtaining certification.  It provides information about PPPs, the WPA, and OSC as part of its new employee orientation process and its website has a link to the OSC website.  The OIG plans to meet two additional requirements -- placing informational posters at all HHS OIG facilities and providing information to all OIG employees about PPPs and the WPA -- by August 31, 2014 (and annually thereafter).  It plans to meet the final requirement, which involves training supervisors on PPPs and the WPA, by December 31, 2014.  The OIG will also provide training on PPPs and the WPA to all supervisors on a three year cycle.

The OIG has demonstrated its commitment to protecting whistleblowers within the Department by establishing a WPO as required by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012.  The WPO has established a webpage with contact information at http://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/whistleblower/ and frequently asked questions (FAQs) at http://oig.hhs.gov/faqs/whistleblower-faq.asp.  The FAQs include information about the rights of potential whistleblowers and the remedies available to them if they experience retaliation, and the responsibilities of HHS supervisors. They also include direct links to the OIG Hotline, the Merit Systems Protection Board, http://www.mspb.gov/appeals/whistleblower.htm, and OSC (http://www.osc.gov/), which has primary jurisdiction over complaints alleging whistleblower reprisal.  In June 2013, the OIG notified HHS employees about the WPO via email using the Department’s blast email system.  That email included a link to the WPO webpage and the email address at which the WPO can be contacted.  The OIG also requested that the Department’s ethics counselors forward this email to all Special Government Employees for which they are responsible.

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