Federal agencies should evaluate policies regarding communications by their employees to endure that they “do not interfere with or chill employees from lawfully disclosing wrongdoing,” a new OSC memo says.
“Although lawful agency monitoring of employee communications serves legitimate purposes, federal law also protects the ability of workers to exercise their legal rights to disclose wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. Indeed, federal employees are required to disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities and are expected to maintain concern for the public interest, which may include disclosing wrongdoing,” it says.
“Agency monitoring specifically designed to target protected disclosures may be unlawful, as it undermines the ability of employees to make confidential disclosures” to the OSC, IGs, Congress or the media, it says.
While agencies have a legitimate interest in preventing certain information, such as classified information, from being disclosed outside approved channels, “employees should not be reported for making lawful disclosures, as this creates a false impression that they have engaged in misconduct. Moreover, reporting whistleblowers may suggest that they are being tracked by their agencies. Both of these circumstances discourage employees from making protected disclosures and impede efforts to reduce government waste, fraud, and abuse.”