Who is DOT OIG's Whistleblower Protection Coordinator?
The Office of Inspector Generals (OIG) has a Whistleblower Protection Coordinator, tasked with educating U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) employees about prohibitions against retaliating against Federal whistleblowers and their specific rights and remedies. However, the Coordinator cannot act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate for DOT employees. Program Coordinator Erika Westry can be reached at: 202-366-1514 or at OIGwhistleblowerinfo@oig.dot.gov.
What is Whistleblower Retaliation?
Whistleblower retaliation is an adverse action in response to a protected disclosure of information. Retaliation includes almost any personnel action, failure to take a personnel action, or threat to take or fail to take a personnel action, which adversely affects the whistleblower, such as:
- A non-promotion
- A disciplinary action
- A detail, transfer or reassignment
- An unfavorable performance evaluation
- A decision concerning pay, benefits or awards
- A significant change in duties, responsibilities or working conditions
Who is Protected from Whistleblower Retaliation?
- DOT Employees
- Employees of DOT contractors
- Employees of DOT subcontractors and grantees for contracts that were entered into after July 1, 2013 and some contracts that were modified after July 1, 2013
- Employees of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) fund recipients, including State and local governments, contractors, subcontractors, grantees or professional membership organizations acting in the interest of recovery fund recipients
If you work for a private-sector transportation employer (such as an air carrier, motor carrier, or pipeline operator), other laws may protect your whistleblowing. These statutes are enforced by the Department of Labor. Visit www.whistleblowers.gov for additional information.
What Types of Disclosures are Protected?
In order for your disclosure to be protected, you must have a reasonable, good faith belief that the allegations you are disclosing are truthful. There are five types of protected disclosures:
- A violation of law, rule, or regulation
- Gross mismanagement
- Gross waste of funds
- A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
- An abuse of authority
Where Can You Report a Complaint of Whistleblower Retaliation?
DOT employees may file whistleblower retaliation complaints with the OIG Hotline or the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), both of which have the authority to investigate complaints.
OSC is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency with the responsibility to receive, investigate, and prosecute allegations of prohibited personnel practices, including whistleblower retaliation. OSC has authority to seek corrective action directly from DOT. If that is unsuccessful, OSC has the authority to file a complaint with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) on behalf of the whistleblower and initiate disciplinary action against the individual responsible for the retaliation. Corrective action for the whistleblower depends on the situation and might include, for example, cancelling a disciplinary or removal action, back pay, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees associated with the retaliation complaint. For more information on how OSC processes complaints, click here.
Federal Employee Disclosures of 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 complies with the laws and rules governing the proper handling and transmission of classified information. For example, you are not protected for disclosing classified information to someone who does not have the authority to receive it, even if you reasonably believe the information is evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse. The OIG Hotline is not authorized to receive classified information, so please do not send classified information to the OIG Hotline. For information on how to properly provide classified information to the OIG, please contact the OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator Erika Westry at 202-366-1514 or OIGwhistleblowerinfo@oig.dot.gov.
Employees of DOT Contractors, Subcontractors and Grantees
If you are an employee of a DOT contractor, subcontractor, or grantee, and you believe you have been retaliated against for whistleblowing related to DOT funds or to safety matters overseen by DOT, you may file a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the OIG Hotline.
An employee of a recipient of funds provided by DOT under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) may also file a whistleblower retaliation complaint through the OIG Hotline. For more information on special protections for non-DOT employee whistleblowers involving ARRA funds, click here.
U.S. Office of Special Counsel Certification
The OIG has been certified by the OSC as being in compliance with obligations to inform DOT's workforce of their rights and remedies under the prohibited personnel practice and whistleblower protection provisions of chapters 12 and 23 of Title 5 of the United States Code. OSC certification requirements were revised by law enacted in late 2017. The OIG is in the process of obtaining recertification under the revised legal requirements.