3.5 Whistleblower Protection
HHS, Assistant Secretary for Administration, Office of Human Resources (OHR), Strategic Programs Division (SPD) oversees 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.
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 obtained 2302(c) certification from OSC in 2015 and expects to continue to satisfy all certification requirements (recertification is due in 2018).
The overall plan for obtaining maintaining certification standards 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.
The points of contact from each operating/staff division gather information on their current procedures, and they are trained on the 2302(c) certification program and their role, and coordinate requirements for local 2302(c) compliance. The designated contact is responsible for ensuring compliance for the areas and locations served and reporting to SPD annually.
Information is maintained OHR’s under the “Whistleblower Protection” section and includes educational resources, contact information, and links to the OSC and other relevant websites.
An email blast is sent periodically from the Secretary to all employees informing them of their rights and remedies. The email includes links to information required (https://osc.gov/Pages/Outreach-2302Cert.aspx) for distribution under the 2302(c) certification program (e.g., Your Rights as a Federal Employee, Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrong, etc.) This email blast will be issued annually.
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.
A notification system has been set up through the HHS Learning Portal ensuring that training is provided to and completed by supervisors and managers every three years.
In addition to HHS plans, OIG has obtained its own certification from OSC. 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.