This page and the accompanying information are intended as an educational tool for Peace Corps staff and Volunteers, and employees of contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, and personal services contractors who are interested in learning more about whistleblower protections.
“Whistleblower disclosures can save lives as well as billions of taxpayer dollars. They play a critical role in keeping our government honest, efficient and accountable. Because whistleblowers help to root out waste, fraud, and abuse, and protect public health and safety, federal laws strongly encourage employees to disclose wrongdoing and protect whistleblowers from retaliation.”
The law does not permit an OIG employee to act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate for Peace Corps whistleblowers. If you have questions related to your specific personal circumstances, it may be advisable to seek the assistance of your union representative, if applicable, or from outside counsel.
What is whistleblowing?
The word “whistleblowing” is commonly used to describe anyone reporting wrongdoing, but in the context of the Peace Corps, whistleblowing describes more specific situations described below. To receive the rights and protections of a whistleblower, in some cases an allegation must be made to the correct authorities and allege certain types of wrongdoing.
Whistleblowing in the Peace Corps context is:
While more specific information is provided below, whistleblower in the Peace Corps typically involves a disclosure made by a:
- Peace Corps employee;
- employee of a Peace Corps contractor¹; or
The disclosure is generally made to:
- Peace Corps Office of Inspector General;
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel;
- A supervisor or senior manager; or
The disclosure alleges:
- A violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
- A gross waste of funds;
- An abuse of authority; or
- A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
¹ Employees of Peace Corps contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, and personal services contractors can make protected disclosures to parties in addition to those appearing above. (See 41 U.S.C. § 4712)
How are whistleblowers protected?
Peace Corps employees
The Peace Corps is prohibited by federal law from taking an unfavorable personnel action against an employee in retaliation for:
- Cooperating with or disclosing information to the Office of Inspector General or the Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
- Disclosing fraud, waste, or abuse to a supervisor
- Disclosing information required to be kept secret by law or Executive Order when the disclosure is made to the Office of Inspector General or OSC
- Filing an appeal, complaint, or grievance
- Helping an individual file a complaint or testifying on their behalf
- Making a disclosure to Congress
- Refusing to obey an order that would violate a law, rule, or regulation
- The Office of Special Counsel has additional information on Your Rights as a Federal Employee [PDF]
Peace Corps Volunteers/trainees
Peace Corps staff is prohibited from taking or threatening to take a negative administrative or other action, (e.g. separation, reassignment, imposition of penalties, reduction in allowances, etc.) against Volunteers/Trainees (V/Ts) in retaliation for reporting a concern. Protected reports of wrongdoing by V/Ts may include:
- Concerns regarding the conduct of other individuals or organizations, even if the issue is beyond the Peace Corps legal jurisdiction
- Mismanagement related to Peace Corps management and operations
- Violations of law or Peace Corps policy (including sexual assault)
- Waste, fraud, and abuse
In addition to the authorities listed in the section, “What is Whistleblowing” (found above), Volunteers may report allegations or concerns to senior staff at post, the appropriate Regional Director, the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity, or other appropriate offices at Peace Corps headquarters listed in MS 271 “Confidentiality Protection” [PDF].
Any Peace Corps staff member who receives or has knowledge of a Volunteer’s allegation or concern has a duty to treat the information with the utmost discretion and confidentiality consistent with appropriate handling of such information and applicable law, including where appropriate, referral to the Office of Inspector General, the appropriate country director, or legal authorities.
(See 22 U.S.C. § 2507(b); 45 C.F.R § 1225.6 Applicant/Trainee/Volunteer Discrimination Complaint Procedure [PDF]; Peace Corps Manual Section MS 271 “Confidentiality Protection” [PDF]; MS 221 “Volunteer Allowances” [PDF]; MS 222 “Trainee Allowances” [PDF]; MS 223 “Volunteer/Trainee Readjustment Allowance” [PDF].)
Employees of contractors, subcontractors, and grantees²
Employees of Peace Corps contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, or personal services contractors may not be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as a reprisal for making a protected disclosure to a person or entity listed in 41 U.S.C. § 4712(a)(2) [For example, the Office of Inspector General] of information that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of:
- Gross mismanagement of a federal contract or grant
- Gross waste of federal funds
- Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
- Violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a Federal contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant
- Abuse of authority relating to a federal contract or grant
(See 41 U.S.C. § 4712 [PDF])
²Applies to employees of contractors, subcontractors, grantees, subgrantees, and personal services contractors for contracts that were entered into after July 1, 2013, as well as some contracts modified after July 1, 2013.
What if retaliation affects my security clearance?
Whistleblower protections also exist for employees eligible for access to classified information. In accordance with Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19), Peace Corps policy prohibits action affecting an employee's eligibility for access to classified information made in reprisal of the employee reporting fraud, waste, or abuse. Peace Corps policy provides a process for employees to bring such allegations to the Office of Inspector General for review, as well the ability to appeal to an external review panel.
What can I do if I have been a victim of retaliation?
You can always contact the Office of Inspector General. If you are a Peace Corps employee you may also contact OSC and/or:
- Appeal the agency action to the Merit Systems Protection Board
- Contact your union representative (bargaining unit employees only)
If you believe you have been the victim of retaliation/reprisal for participating in Equal Employment Opportunity activities, contact the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity.
If you are an employee of a Peace Corps contractor subcontractor, grantee, subgrantee, or a personal services contractor you are encouraged to submit your complaint to the Office of Inspector General.
What should I tell a Volunteer who alleges to be a victim of retaliation?
Volunteers can be told that they have a right to report allegations of retaliation directly to the Office of Inspector General.
Volunteers may also file a retaliation complaint with Office of Civil Rights and Diversity (OCRD) consistent with Peace Corps Manual Section 271 “Confidentiality Protection” [PDF].
Office of Inspector General Hotline information
Toll-free in U.S.: 800.233.5874
Office of Inspector General
P.O. Box 57129
Washington, D.C. 20037-7129
Office of Special Counsel
Send forms OSC-11 for the Retaliation Claims and OSC-12 to disclose the underlying wrongdoing (Forms Found Here) to:
U.S. Office of Special Counsel
Complaints Examining Unit
1730 M Street NW, Suite 218,
Washington, DC 20036-4505
Submit complaint via Web Reporting Tool
Whistleblower Protections and Nondisclosure Policies, Forms, or Agreements
Notice to Peace Corps Office of Inspector General Employees and Former Employees Regarding Whistleblower Protection and Nondisclosure Policies, Forms, and Agreements
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA) was signed into law on November 27, 2012. The law strengthens the protections for federal employees who disclose evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse. The WPEA also requires that any nondisclosure policy, form, or agreement (NDA) include the statement below, and provides that NDAs executed without the language may be enforced as long as agencies give employees notice of the statement. As an employee/former employee of the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General, you may have been required to sign an NDA to access classified or other information. You should read the statement below as if it were incorporated into any non-disclosure policy, form, or agreement you have signed.
"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."
Employees/former employees are reminded that reporting evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse involving classified information or classified programs must continue to be made consistent with established rules and procedures designed to protect classified information.
Controlling Executive Orders and statutory provisions are as follows:
- 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 (governing 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 statutes which protect against disclosure that may compromise the national security, including sections 641, 793, 794, 798, and 952 of title 18, United States Code; and
- Section 4(b) of the Subversive Activities Act of 1950 (50 U.S.C. 783(b)).