KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Whistleblower disclosures relating to federal grants and contracts play an important role ensuring that grantees and contractors use federal funds honestly, efficiently and accountably. Employees of federal grantees and contractors are often in the best position to spot waste, fraud, and abuse. Recognizing this, Congress passed laws to protect whistleblowing employees from retaliation.
The HUD Office of Inspector General plays an important role investigating retaliation by a HUD contractor, grantee, subcontractor, or subgrantee against an employee who discloses wrongdoing by their employer in a federal program. Where the Inspector General’s investigation supports retaliation, the federal agency responsible for the grant or contract may order the contractor or grantee to unwind the retaliation and to pay for damages incurred by the employee because of the retaliation.
For more information, please click on the links below, or email HUD OIG at [email protected].
41 USC 4712, “Enhancement of contractor protection from reprisal for disclosure of certain information”
- Who Is Covered?
You are covered if you are an employee of a federal contractor, subcontractor, grantee, and subgrantee, or hold a personal services contract with a federal agency. Persons receiving federal assistance are not covered.
- What Is A Disclosure?
An employee makes a disclosure by providing information regarding a federal grant or contract that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of:
- Violation of law, rule or regulation
- Gross mismanagement
- Gross waste of funds
- Abuse of authority
- A danger to public health or safety
The disclosure must be made to (1) a management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, or grantee who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct, (2) a federal employee responsible for overseeing the grant or contract, (3) the Inspector General, (4) the Government Accountability Office, (5) Congress, (6) a Court or grand jury, or (7) the Department of Justice.
- What Constitutes Retaliation?
Retaliation occurs when an employer discharges, demotes, or otherwise discriminates against an employee and the employee’s disclosure contributed to the adverse action. If the evidence establishes contribution, the employer will have the burden to show that it would have taken the same action without the disclosure. Factors will include the motive to retaliate, treatment of other employees in similar situations, and evidence supporting the employer’s action.
- How Do I Make A Complaint?
A retaliation complaint can be filed via HUD OIG’s Hotline, located on our public website, https://www.hudoig.gov. Select the red tab marked “Hotline” and you will be taken to an online form you can fill out. Often, the website will provide an online complaint form or a website when a complaint may be filed. You may also file a complaint via [email protected].
Please be sure to identify the disclosure specifically, when it was made and to whom. Also, please identify the retaliation you experienced, including when it began. This information is necessary to evaluate your complaint.
- What Will Happen With My Complaint?
Upon receiving your complaint, the General Office of Inspector will initially review your complaint to determine whether, if true, it would be a violation. If so, OIG will investigate the complaint, develop evidence and make findings. The agency may also separately investigate the alleged violation that caused your disclosure.
OIG has 180 days to investigate, but may request additional time. When findings are forwarded to the agency, it will have 30 days to make a determination as to whether there was retaliation and, if so, order the contractor or grantee to remedy the retaliation. If the employer does not comply, the agency can seek a court order forcing the employer to do so.
- Can I Remain Anonymous?
Congress has provided that OIGs may not disclose any information about an employee alleging retaliation unless they have the employee’s consent, disclosure is permitted by the Privacy Act, or disclosure is necessary to investigate the retaliation. As a practical matter, where the burden shifts to the employer to show it would have taken the adverse action anyway, the agency cannot proceed with the case if the employee’s identity is not disclosed.
- Do I Have Other Options?
If the OIG or agency does not provide a determination within 210 days of your filing a complaint, you may file your own action in federal court. You may also file an action in federal court if you disagree with the agency’s decision. The Office of Inspector General cannot provide legal advice to you, and you may wish to consult with a private attorney about other remedies you may have. Please note that if you have already brought an action against your employer for retaliation, the Office of Inspector General may choose not to open a second investigation.