State agencies are responsible for providing employees with an annual written summary of procedures for reporting improper governmental action under RCW Chapter 42.40, the State Employee Whistleblower Protection Act. The Office of Internal Audit communicates a summary of the act via WSU Announcements annually. In addition, provisions of the act have been adopted in University policy BPPM 10.20, and the University sponsors periodic training on the whistleblower programs through HRS Training Resources.
What is the Whistleblower Act?
The Whistleblower Act, Chapter 42.40 RCW, was enacted by the Washington State Legislature in 1982 and amended in 1999 and 2008.
The Whistleblower Act provides an avenue for state employees to report suspected improper governmental action.
State law preserves the confidentiality of people who file whistleblower assertions and of people who provide information for whistleblower investigations. It also prohibits retaliation against people who file whistleblower assertions. The Human Rights Commission investigates assertions of retaliation.
What is an Improper Governmental Action?
Improper governmental action is defined as any action by an employee undertaken in the performance of the employee’s official duties which:
- is a gross waste of public funds or resources
- is in violation of federal or state law or rule, if the violation is not merely technical or of a minimum nature
- is of substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety
- is gross mismanagement
- prevents dissemination of scientific opinion or alters technical findings
How to Report an Improper Governmental Action
University (state) employees may file complaints of improper governmental action in two ways:
1) to the State Auditor’s Office via the whistleblower program, or 2) to the Office of Internal Audit.
Reporting Complaints via the Whistleblower Program
In order to be covered under the provisions of the act (including protection against retaliation), improper governmental actions must be filed with the State Auditor’s Office. They can be reported using the online or printable Whistleblower Reporting Form. See the Washington State Auditor’s Office website for access to online and print versions of the form. The report should include sufficient detail to contribute to a thorough and efficient investigation.
Reporting Complaints via the Office of Internal Audit
University employees may disclose assertions of improper governmental actions to the Office of Internal Audit. In accordance with the provisions of the state Whistleblower Act, whistleblower complaints received by the Office of Internal Audit are submitted to the State Auditor’s Office within 15 working days.
Employees should be aware that Washington State’s Whistleblower Act does not apply to general communications between University employees and WSU’s Office of Internal Audit. Though the Office of Internal Audit encourages employees to file complaints or concerns with Internal Audit, if the employee is concerned with retaliation it is suggested the employee access the whistleblower program and related protections directly.
Please note Internal Audit receives assertions, or inquiries about the making of assertions, in person at our offices in the IT Building, Room 2127, by mail, or by phone at 509-335-2001.
- Washington State Auditor’s Office
- Whistleblower Program Flyer
- FAQs State Whistleblower Program
- Whistleblower Reporting Form
- BPPM 10.20 – Improper Governmental Action (Whistleblower Act)
- RCW 42.40 – State Employee Whistleblower Protection