Whistleblower Protection:

Determining Whether Reprisal Occurred Remains Difficult

GGD-93-3: Published: Oct 27, 1992. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the processing of whistleblower reprisal complaints and the Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) protection of whistleblowers from reprisals.

GAO found that: (1) about one-third of employees who appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board after going through OSC for whistleblower reprisal complaints have received relief, usually through settlements; (2) the effect of adding employers' threats to take or not take personnel actions to reprisal acts has been minimal; (3) employees still find it difficult to prove reprisals have occurred; (4) the same percentage of reprisal complaints filed before and after the 1989 whistleblower act resulted in corrective action; (5) OSC drops reprisal complaints mainly because it lacks evidence of a causal connection between personnel actions and whistleblowing; and (6) federal agencies are not required to inform employees of their right to protection or where to report misconduct, so most employees are unaware of their rights or where to report.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On October 29, 1994, Congress enacted Public Law 103-424 to reauthorize the Office of Special Counsel and to make changes to the whistleblower program, including the recommended change to make agency heads responsible for ensuring that their employees are informed of whistleblower rights and remedies.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending the whistleblower statutes (5 U.S.C. 1201 et seq.) to require agencies, with OSC guidance, to inform employees periodically on their right to protection from reprisal and where to report misconduct.


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