Notice to Employees Concerning Whistleblower Rights and Remedies Under Federal Pilot Program for Enhancement of Employee Whistleblower Protection (41 U.S.C. 4712)
Saint Mary’s College of California (hereinafter “the College”) is committed to operating with integrity and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations concerning Whistleblower protection. Additionally, the College does not tolerate retaliation against individuals who report compliance concerns in good faith. Please see the College’s Whistleblower Policy in your applicable handbook. This Notice of Whistleblower Rights and Remedies provides employees with a summary of rights and remedies as set forth in 41 U.S.C. 4712.
In 2013, the federal government enacted a pilot program, effective until January 1, 2017, that adds protections for employees against reprisal for certain whistleblowing activities in connection with federal grants and contracts.
The pilot program is established at 41 U.S.C. 4712 by section 828 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (Pub. L. 112-239) and Federal Acquisition Regulation 3.908. Provisions of the program are summarized below. The pilot program requires the College to provide information to employees about the program, and that information is provided below.
Employees are protected against discharge, demotion, and discrimination as a reprisal for disclosing information (except for classified information) that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of any of the following:
- A gross mismanagement of a federal contract or grant;
- A gross waste of federal funds;
- An abuse of authority relating to a federal contract or grant (where “abuse of authority” is defined as an “arbitrary and capricious exercise of authority that is inconsistent with the mission of the executive agency . . . or the successful performance of a [federal] contract or grant . . . .”)
- A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or
- A violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a federal contract (including competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant.
Employees are only protected when they disclose these types of information to the following persons or entities:
- A member of Congress or a representative of a committee of Congress;
- An Inspector General;
- The Government Accountability Office;
- A federal employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant federal agency;
- An authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency;
- A court or grand jury; or
- A management official or other employee of the College who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct. (How to make a complaint to College officials is described in the Saint Mary's College Whistleblower policy.)
Employees who initiate or provide evidence of misconduct in any judicial or administrative proceeding relating to waste, fraud, or abuse on a federal contract or grant are also protected. The pilot program establishes a process for the handling and review of whistleblower complaints alleged by employees.
Submitting Complaints to Funding Agencies
Whistleblowers may file complaints with federal agencies if they believe they were discriminated against for their disclosure of information. Complaints of this nature must be submitted within three years of the date of the alleged discrimination. Whistleblowers may submit complaints to the Inspector General of the federal agency that issued the contract or grant. The following federal agency websites provide procedures for submitting complaints (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Department of Agriculture : http://www.usda.gov/oig/
- Department of Defense: http://www.dodig.mil/ai/wri/index.html
- Department of Education: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/hotline.html
- Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.hhs.gov/
- National Institutes of Health: http://nih.gov
- Department of Justice: http://www.justice.gov/
- NASA: http://oig.nasa.gov/hotline.html
- National Science Foundation: http://www.nsf.gov/oig/
The Inspector General, after receiving such a complaint, will generally perform an investigation and submit a report to the federal agency, which then determines whether sufficient basis exists to conclude that discrimination occurred.
If the agency determines that discrimination has occurred, the pilot program sets out remedies that may be available, including ordering the College to reverse the reprisal, reinstate the employee with compensatory damages and employment benefits, and/or pay costs reasonably incurred by the whistleblower in bringing the complaint.
The College has the right to appeal any agency order to the relevant United States court.