5271 Reporting Improper Governmental Action (Whistleblower Protection)

  • The district encourages the reporting, consistent with the district’s procedures, of improper governmental actions by any district officers or employees and will protect employees against retaliatory employment actions for reporting improper governmental actions when the reports are made in compliance with this policy and related procedure. 

    District officers and employees are prohibited from taking retaliatory action against an employee because the employee has in good faith reported alleged improper governmental action in accordance with this policy and related procedure.

    The superintendent/designee will establish procedures for receiving and acting on employee reports of improper governmental actions and responding to allegations of retaliation.

    Legal References:    
    RCW 42.41                       Local Government Whistleblower Protection

    Management Resources:    
    Policy & Legal News     Oct. 2015 

    ADOPTED: 11/24/1992
    REVISED: 2/23/95; 9/24/98; 12/17/15

    Procedure No. 5271P Reporting Improper Governmental Action

    Definitions

    As used in this policy and procedure, the following terms will have the meanings indicated.

    1. “Improper governmental action” means any action by a district officer or employee:

      1.  That is undertaken in the performance of the officer or employee’s official duties, whether or not the action is within the scope of the employee’s job; and

      2.  That (1) is in violation of any federal, state or local law or rule, (2) is an abuse of authority, (3) is of substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, or (4) is a gross waste of public funds.

      3.  Improper governmental action does not include personnel actions including, but not limited to, employee grievances, complaints, appointments, promotions, transfers, assignments, reassignments, reinstatements, restorations, reemployments, performance evaluations, reductions in pay, dismissals, suspensions, demotions, violations of the collective bargaining and civil service laws, alleged labor agreement violations, or reprimands.

    2. “Retaliatory action” means any adverse change in the terms and conditions of a staff member’s employment.

    3. “Emergency” means a circumstance that if not immediately changed may cause damage to persons or property. Employees are encouraged to report instances which they believe constitute governmental misconduct.

    Reporting 

    Employees who become of aware of actions that they believe constitute improper governmental action should raise the issue first with their supervisor.  Where the employee reasonably believes the improper governmental action involves their supervisor, the employee may raise the issue directly with the superintendent or the person whom the superintendent has designated to receive reports of improper governmental action. If requested by the supervisor or superintendent/designee, the employee will submit a written report to the supervisor or superintendent/designee, stating in detail basis for the employee’s belief that an improper governmental action has occurred.

    In case of emergency where the employee believes that damage to persons or property may result if action is not taken immediately, or where the employee has a legal obligation to report (for instance, where child abuse is suspected), the employee shall report the improper governmental action directly to the appropriate governmental agency with responsibility for investigating the improper action.

    District employees who fail to make a good faith attempt to follow this policy and procedure in reporting improper governmental conduct shall not be eligible for the protections outlined.

    Response

    The employee’s supervisor, the superintendent or the superintendent’s designee will take prompt action to see that the report of improper governmental action is properly investigated.

    District officers and employees involved in the investigation will keep the identity of reporting employees confidential to the extent possible under law, unless the employees authorize the disclosure of their identities in writing. 

    After an investigation has been completed, the reporting employee will receive a summary of the investigation results, except to the extent that resulting personnel actions must be kept confidential.  If a reporting employee reasonably believes an adequate investigation was not done by the district, that insufficient action has been taken, or that the improper governmental action is likely to recur, the employee may report information about improper governmental action directly to the appropriate governmental agency.

    Retaliation

    Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for reporting an improper governmental action should advise their supervisor, the superintendent or the superintendent’s designee.  Appropriate action to investigate and address complaints of retaliation shall be taken.

    If the complaint cannot be informally resolved, the employee will provide written notice to the superintendent/designee that specifies the alleged retaliatory action and the relief requested by the employee. The written complaint must be filed within thirty days of the alleged retaliation.  The district will respond to the complaint within thirty days of receiving the written notice.

    If the employee alleging retaliation receives no response from the district or objects to the district’s response, the employee may request a hearing before a state administrative law judge. The request for a hearing must be delivered in writing to the superintendent either fifteen days following the district’s response, or 45 days after the complaint was filed, if there was no response.

    The district will apply for a hearing within five working days to:

    Office of Administrative Hearings
    PO Box 42488
    919 Lakeridge Way SW
    Olympia, WA  98504-2488
    (360) 407-2700

    The district will consider any recommendation provided by the administrative law judge that an employee found to have retaliated against an employee who reported improper governmental action be suspended with or without pay or dismissed.

    Administration

    A summary of this policy and procedure will be permanently posted where all employees will have reasonable access to it; the policy and procedure will be made available to any employee who requests them; and the policy and procedure will be given to all new employees.

    The following is a list of agencies responsible for enforcing federal, state and local laws and investigating issues involving potential improper governmental action.  Employees having questions about these agencies or the procedures for reporting improper governmental action are encouraged to contact their supervisor, the superintendent or designee.

    List of Agencies
    ADOPTED: 11/24/1992

    REVISED: 9/24/98; 3/22/01; 12/17/15

     

5000 Policies