Administrative Policies

AD67 Disclosure of Wrongful Conduct and Protection From Retaliation

Policy Status: 

Active

Policy Steward: 

Vice President for Administration

Contents:

PURPOSE:

The University is committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethics and conduct, consistent with applicable legal requirements and University policies.  Through the establishment of this policy, the University wishes to encourage and protect from Retaliation those who desire to report potential violations of these standards.

POLICY:

It is the policy of the University to encourage and enable any member of the University faculty, staff, or student body to make Good Faith Reports of suspected Wrongful Conduct, and to protect such individuals from Retaliation for making such reports to the University or an Appropriate Authority, participating in any investigation, hearing, or inquiry by the University or an Appropriate Authority or participating in a court proceeding relating to an allegation of suspected Wrongful Conduct at the University.

DEFINITIONS:

For purposes of this policy, the following definitions shall apply:

“Good Faith Report” means any report, communication or other disclosure about actual or suspected Wrongful Conduct engaged in by a member of the University faculty, staff, or student body, which is made with a good faith reason to believe that Wrongful Conduct has occurred.

“Wrongful Conduct” includes a violation of University policy (including guidelines and codes of ethics or conduct which are available on Penn State Policies, or as hot links through a policy contained within Penn State Policies); a violation of a federal, state, and/or local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance; and the substantive use of University tangible and intangible assets, equipment, supplies and services for personal gain or for another purpose not authorized by the University.

“Appropriate Authority” means a federal, state or local government body, agency, or organization having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics, or waste; or a member, officer, agent, representative or supervisory employee of the body, agency or organization.

“Retaliation” means any adverse action taken by a member of the University faculty, staff, or student body against any individual on the basis of a Good Faith Report made by such individual, or on the basis of such individual’s participation in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry by the University or an Appropriate Authority, or participation in a court proceeding relating to suspected Wrongful Conduct at the University.  Retaliation shall include, but not be limited to, harassment, discrimination, threats of physical harm, job termination, punitive work schedule or research assignments, decrease in pay or responsibilities, or negative impact on academic progress.

REPORTING WRONGFUL CONDUCT:

Any individual having reason to believe that a member of the University faculty, staff, or student body has engaged in Wrongful Conduct can report such suspected Wrongful Conduct to the designated contacts below.  A report should include a description of the facts, avoid speculation and predetermined conclusions, and be based on a good faith reason to believe that suspected Wrongful Conduct has occurred.

An individual desiring to submit a Good Faith Report should contact the appropriate person as identified under the applicable University policy.  Some key contacts are referenced on the University Ethics website. Members of the University community may also report suspected Wrongful Conduct on an anonymous, confidential basis through the University’s Ethics and Compliance Hotline at 1-800-560-1637.

INVESTIGATING ALLEGATIONS OF WRONGFUL CONDUCT:

Upon receiving a Good Faith Report of suspected Wrongful Conduct, the University will investigate and resolve the matter.  The University may notify the individual suspected of Wrongful Conduct and may interview members of the faculty, staff and student body to gather all information necessary to resolve the matter.  The University will make every reasonable effort to conduct all investigations in the most confidential manner possible.

PROTECTION FROM RETALIATION:

No individual who makes or advises the University that he or she intends to make a Good Faith Report of suspected Wrongful Conduct to the University or an Appropriate Authority, participates in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry by the University or an Appropriate Authority or participates in a court proceeding involving suspected Wrongful Conduct at the University shall be subject to Retaliation from any member of the University faculty, staff, or student body.  Any individual who believes that he or she may have been subject to prohibited Retaliation should notify one of the key contacts identified in the link above.  Upon receiving a report of Retaliation, the University will investigate and resolve the matter.  Protection from Retaliation for persons reporting under this policy is also provided by Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law, 43 P.S. Section 1421 et seq.

ENHANCED WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION FOR EMPLOYEES WORKING ON FEDERAL CONTRACTS AND GRANTS:

Employees working on a federal government contract, subcontract or grant are provided enhanced whistleblower protections pursuant to the provisions of 41 U.S.C. §4712. For further information, please contact the Office of Ethics and Compliance.

DISCIPLINARY SANCTIONS:

No member of the University faculty, staff, or student body may retaliate against any individual for making a Good Faith Report of suspected Wrongful Conduct to the University or an Appropriate Authority, for participating in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry by the University or an Appropriate Authority or for participating in a court proceeding involving suspected Wrongful Conduct at the University.  Any member of the University who retaliates against any individual in violation of this policy will be subject to disciplinary sanctions, which may range from a disciplinary warning to termination or expulsion from the University.

In addition, any member of the University faculty, staff, or student body who knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, provides  false information in a report of Wrongful Conduct, or in a report of Retaliation, will be subject to disciplinary sanctions ranging from a disciplinary warning to termination or expulsion from the University.  Allegations of suspected Wrongful Conduct or Retaliation that are not substantiated but are made in good faith are excused from disciplinary action.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of Ethics and Compliance.

CROSS REFERENCES:

AD85 - Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Related Inappropriate Conduct

FN19 - Policy for Handling and Distributing Confidential Internal Audit Reports and Other Documents

HR01 - Fair Employment Practices

HR11 - Affirmative Action in Employment at The Pennsylvania State University

HR76 - Faculty Rights and Responsibilities

HR79 - Staff Grievance Procedure

RP02 - Addressing Allegations of Research Misconduct (Formerly Handling Inquiries/Investigations Into Questions of Ethics in Research and in Other Scholarly Activities)

Effective Date: March 25, 2014
Date Approved: March 24, 2014
Date Published: March 25, 2014 (Editorial change, April 29, 2014)

Most Recent Changes:

  • October 5, 2017 - Edited to change all references to GURU to the new Penn State Policies website.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • April 29, 2014 - Editorial change; revised heading FROM "Enhanced Whistleblower Protection for Employees Working on Federal Contracts" TO "Enhanced Whistleblower Protection for Employees Working on Federal Contracts and Grants," to clarifiy that such protections also apply to grants.
  • March 25, 2014 - Addition of an "Enhanced Whistleblower Protection for Employees Working on Federal Contracts" section to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act which requires the University, as a federal grant recipient, to notify all employees of the enhanced whistleblower protections. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
  • June 22, 2010 - New Policy.