By Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Winking, Assistant IGFebruary 19, 2015
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Feb. 19, 2015) -- It appears that people are not reporting wrongdoings due to the fear of being punished.
For those who fear reprisal, the office of the Inspector General, or IG, provides assistance to individuals who are aware of wrongdoings but unsure whether to report it or not.
Whistleblower reprisal is defined as 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 made to a member of Congress or an IG.
It is also communication in which a member of the armed forces communicates information that the member reasonably believes evidences a violation of law or regulation, including a law or regulation prohibiting sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination, gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds or other resources, an abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Protected communication applies when such communication is made to:
-- A Department of Defense audit, inspection, investigation or law enforcement organization.
-- Any person or organization in the chain of command or any other person designated pursuant to regulations or other established administrative procedures to receive such communications.
-- Any communication made in a court-martial proceeding, as part of an investigation, or as part of any other proceeding is also protected.
Personnel action is any action taken on a member that affects, or has the potential to affect, that member's current position or career.
Such actions include a promotion; a disciplinary or other corrective action; a transfer or reassignment; a performance evaluation; a decision on pay, benefits, awards, or training; referral for mental health evaluations and any other significant change in duties or responsibilities inconsistent with member's rank/grade and position.
To determine whether or not you were a victim of reprisal, you should ask:
-- Was a protected communication made to one of the above categories?
-- Was an unfavorable personnel action taken or threatened to be taken or was a favorable personnel action withheld or threatened to be withheld following the protected communication?
-- Did the official responsible for taking, withholding, or threatening the personnel action know about the protected communication?
-- Was the official responsible for taking, withholding, or threatening the personnel action justified in their decision to take the unfavorable action as a result of the members' performance?
If you answered yes to the first three questions and no to the last question this could indicate reprisal.
An example would be when Staff Sgt. John Smith made a complaint to the IG office about his chain of command failing to take action on misconduct within his unit.
After the chain of command was informed of the complaint against them, Smith was removed from his squad leader position and received a relief for cause non-commissioned officer evaluation.
This is an example of 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.
An example would be when Spc. Jane Doe made a complaint to the IG office that her supervisor failed to treat her with dignity and respect.
After making the complaint to the IG, Doe failed to be at her appointed place of duty for a fourth time in three weeks - and was recommended to the chain of command for Article 15 in accordance with Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ.
This is not reprisal due to Doe's repeated violation of the UCMJ.
There are also timelines for reporting whistleblower reprisal. Those who believe they have an allegation of whistleblower reprisal, must make their complaint within 1 year of the date they became aware of the personnel action.
The request for an IG to investigate an allegation 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.
If you have any questions about whistleblower reprisal or any other IG matter, visit Building 315 on the 3rd floor.
The IG also can be reached by calling 573.596.0131, ext. 60486 or online at www.wood.army.mil/ig.