Army

April 18, 2014

Whistleblower reprisal — what it is, isn’t

Sgt. 1st Class Monica O’Leary
Inspector General Office

Many people who observe or learn of wrongdoing are often afraid to report it because they fear that if the word got out, negative action would be taken against them.

In order for the office of the Inspector General, or IG, to provide assistance, it is important that the Fort Huachuca community fully understand what whistleblower reprisal is, and what it is not, before presenting an allegation of whistleblower reprisal to the office of the IG.

Whistleblower reprisal is taking or threatening an unfavorable personnel action, or withholding or threatening to withhold a favorable personnel action, because the member made, or was thought to have made, a protected communication.

A protected communication is any lawful communication to members of Congress, inspectors general, Department of Defense audit, inspection, investigation, law enforcement organization, any person in the chain of command or any other person designated pursuant to regulations or established administrative procedures to receive such communications.

Before making an allegation of whistleblower reprisal to the office of the Inspector General, or IG, ask yourself: “was an unfavorable personnel action taken or threatened?” And if so, was your command justified in their decisions as a result of the Soldier’s own actions?

Many Soldiers who make whistleblower reprisal complaints to the IG do not understand the term, or that there are certain criteria that must be met in order for the office of the IG to investigate an allegation of whistleblower reprisal. Many Soldiers who come to the IG’s office with an allegation of reprisal list the IG as their protected communication, but an IG cannot be considered a protected communication if the favorable personnel action was threatened or withheld prior to making the complaint.

As an example, Sgt. 1st Class John Doe made a congressional inquiry against his unit for abuse of authority. Once Doe’s command became aware of his request for Congressional assistance, his command relieved Doe of his platoon sergeant duties and assigned him to a different, non-leadership position. This is an example of whistleblower reprisal.

Whistleblower reprisal is not simply receiving an Article 15 or being relieved from a military course as a result of a violation of regulation, policy or law; it must be directly related to a protected communication as described above.

Those who believe they have an allegation of whistleblower reprisal, must make their complaint within 60 days of the date they became aware of the personnel action. The request for the IG to investigate an allegation of whistleblower reprisal will be declined or cannot be acted on if a protected communication was not made, an unfavorable personnel action was not taken or threatened, or the allegation is considered untimely.

Those with questions about whistleblower reprisals or other IG matters are invited to call the IG office, 533.1144.




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