Federal Manager's Daily Report

An inspector general report has said that a law setting procedures for employees of non-federal entities may seek redress for whistleblower retaliation by their employers does not provide for bringing such complaints against federal officials.

The IG of the National Park Service addressed that issue in the context of an investigation into a complaint that after a contractor alleged censorship of a report, the agency retaliated by declining to fund a proposed task agreement, extend an internship, and accept a volunteer application that would have enabled continued work with the NPS.

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The contractor brought that complaint under the 2013 DoD authorization act which creates whistleblower protections for contractor employees who blow the whistle on their employers similar to the protections for federal employees who do the same regarding federal agencies.

The IG said it could not find legal precedent interpreting the scope of that provision, but from its own review it concluded that the law applies only if the person’s own employer takes an allegedly retaliatory action for a protected disclosure—even if that action is taken at the request of a federal official. The law “does not create a private cause of action for non-federal employees against the government for alleged government misconduct, which is what the complainant is alleging here,” the report said.

It said that even after reaching that conclusion, it investigated the allegations to determine if there was misconduct by federal officials but “concluded that the weight of the evidence did not support a finding that the NPS engaged in misconduct or that its decisions were influenced by the claims of attempted censorship and other related violations.”

“Instead, we found that, overall, the evidence showed that the NPS’ decisions at issue, which were made by career employees, were based largely on an uncertainty of future funding and a lack of further need for the complainant’s services,” the report said.

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