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Whistleblower Protection

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Whistleblowers perform an important service by reporting what they reasonably believe to be evidence of wrongdoing, and should not be subject to, or threatened with, reprisal for doing so. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 strengthened protection for Federal employee who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse in government operations. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) designated a Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman in accordance with this Act; however, the Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act changed the title toWhistleblower Protection Coordinator.

TIGTA’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator and Program are available to employees of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its contractors, subcontractors, and grantees, about whistleblower protections, rights, and remedies. TIGTA’s Whistleblower Program carries out a number of functions, including:
  • Educating IRS employees about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures, and employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies against retaliation for protected disclosures;

  • Ensuring that TIGTA is promptly and thoroughly reviewing complaints that it receives, and that it is getting back to whistleblowers in a timely fashion; and,

  • Coordinating with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and other agencies, and non-governmental organizations on relevant matters.
NOTE: TIGTA’s Whistleblower Protection Coordinator cannot act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate for any individual whistleblower.

Reports concerning wrongdoing by TIGTA employees or in TIGTA programs should be reported directly to TIGTA’s Hotline.

For more information on whistleblower rights and protections, please see the pamphlet prepared by the Office of Special Counsel, Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs.

What is a Whistleblower?

A “whistleblower” is an employee, former employee, applicant, or employee of a Federal contractor who discloses information she or he reasonably believes is evidence of:
  • A violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
  • Gross mismanagement;
  • Gross waste of funds;
  • Abuse of authority; and/or
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
What is Whistleblower Retaliation?

It is unlawful (i.e., a prohibited personnel practice) for agencies to take or threaten to take, or threaten to take, a personnel action against an employee or applicant because he or she disclosed wrongdoing or gross mismanagement (i.e., whistleblowing activities). Personnel actions can include a poor performance review, non-promotion, demotion, disciplinary action, unfavorable performance evaluation, and termination.

How to File a Complaint of Whistleblower Retaliation?

Individuals who believe they have been improperly retaliated against may contact the following entities:
  • The Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OSC is an independent agency enforcing whistleblower protections, safeguarding the merit system, and providing a secure channel for whistleblower disclosures. Information on filing a complaint with OSC may be at www.osc.gov.

  • TIGTA's Office of Investigations (OI) at TIGTA's Hotline. If you submit your complaint to TIGTA, OI will review the allegation to make a determination as to whether TIGTA OI will investigate the matter or refer the complaint to another appropriate agency.

  • The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Certain employees may be able to appeal directly to MSPB. More information on whistleblower MSPB appeals is available at www.mspb.gov/appeals/whistleblower.htm.
Allegations of reprisal regarding Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) matters generally should be addressed through the EEO process.

TIGTA's Whistleblower Protection Coordinator

TIGTA's Whistleblower Protection Coordinator provides education to increase awareness of prohibitions against whistleblower retaliation and the rights and remedies against retaliation for making protected disclosures.

The Coordinator is prohibited from acting as a complainant's legal representative, agent, or advocate. For additional information concerning whistleblower rights and remedies, please contact Lori Creswell at WhistleblowerProtection@tigta.treas.gov.

Disclosing Classified Information

A disclosure of waste, fraud, or abuse that includes classified information is not a protected disclosure under the whistleblower laws unless the disclosure is made in accordance with the laws and rules that govern the proper handling and transmission of classified information. For example, you are not protected for disclosing classified information to an unauthorized recipient, even if you reasonably believe the information is evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse. You can make a protected disclosure of classified information to the TIGTA, but the information may not be transmitted using the TIGTA’s unclassified hotline. For more information on how to properly provide classified information to the TIGTA, please contact the TIGTA’s hotline at 1-800-366-4484 or the TIGTA Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.

Protection for Employees with Access to Classified Information

Pursuant to Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-19), Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information, an action affecting access to classified information cannot be taken in reprisal for protected whistleblowing.

Employees of IRS Contractors, Subcontractors, Grantees, or Subgrantees of Personal Services Contractors.

Under Title 41, United States Code, § 4712, it is illegal for an employee of a Federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor to be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for making a protected whistleblower disclosure.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA) requires, among other things, that any non-disclosure policy, form or agreement (NDA) include the below language. Any NDA executed without the below language should be read as if the following language were incorporated into the NDA:

These provisions are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this agreement and are controlling.

The following are controlling in the case of any conflict and an NDA:
  • Executive Order No. 13526;
  • Section 7211 of Title 5, United States Code (governing disclosures to Congress):
  • Section 1034 of Title 10, United States Code, as amended by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (governing disclosure to Congress by members of the military);
  • Section 2302(b)(8) of Title 5, United States Code, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (government disclosures of illegality, waste, fraud, abuse, or public health or safety threats);
  • Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 U.S.C. § 421 et seq.)(governing disclosures that could expose confidential Government agents):
  • The statues which protect against disclosure that may compromise the national security, including sections 641, 793, 794, 798, and 952 of Title 18, Unites States Code; and,
  • Section 4(b) of the Subversive Activities Act of 1950 (50 U.S.C. § 783(b)).
OSC Whistleblower Posters

Click on the thumbnails below to view the full-size posters:

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Whistleblowing Poster Click to open the full-size 
Whistleblower Retaliation Poster Click to open the full-size 
Prohibitive Personal Practices Poster Click to open the full-size 
Your Rights As A Federal Employee Poster

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Last Updated: September 30, 2021
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