The Whistleblower Protection Code provides specific steps to take when reporting official misconduct. If you know of a wrong that you would like to see corrected, we encourage you to contact the SEEC for help. Staff can help you figure out your best course of action.
WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION CODE PROCEDURE SUMMARY
Improper governmental actions should be immediately reported to the appropriate persons or agencies as indicated below. SMC 4.20.810(B)(2) Although many allegations do not require that a complaint be made in writing, a written record should be kept in order to establish a clear reporting timeline.
Where the employee believes in good faith that substantial damage to persons or property will result if the complaint is made to the entity listed, the improper governmental actions may be reported to any other government official or to a member of the public. SMC 4.20.810(B)(2)
Employees who act in good faith and in compliance with the law are protected from interference in or retaliation for reporting improper governmental actions or cooperating in an investigation or resulting proceedings. SMC 4.20.810(C) To the extent allowed by law, the identity of employees providing information shall remain confidential, unless the employees waive the right in writing. SMC 4.20.820
The City Code prohibits City officers or employees from retaliating against any employee who acted in good faith under the law. SMC 4.20.810(C)(2) The Code defines retaliation as making an unwarranted adverse change in the employee's employment status or the terms and conditions of employment because the employee took an action protected under this law. Retaliation includes but is not limited to: denial of adequate staff to perform duties; frequent staff changes; frequent and undesirable office changes; refusal to assign meaningful work; unsubstantiated letters of reprimand or unsatisfactory performance evaluations; demotion; reduction in pay; denial of promotion; transfer or reassignment; suspension or dismissal; or other unwarranted disciplinary action. SMC 4.20.850(D)
Employees who believe they have been retaliated against for reporting improper governmental actions have the right to request a hearing before a state administrative law judge. To qualify for such hearing, the employee must, within 30 days of the alleged retaliatory action, deliver a written statement to the Office of the Mayor. The statement must describe the alleged retaliatory act and state the relief requested. SMC 4.20.860(A)
The Mayor will forward the complaint to the appropriate department head unless the employee alleges in the complaint that the department head has retaliated. The Mayor or the relevant department head has 30 days in which to respond. SMC 4.20.860(B)
If the employee is not satisfied with the response, the employee has the right within 15 days of receiving the response or 45 days after delivering the written complaint, whichever occurs first, the employee may submit to the Mayor a written request for a hearing before a state administrative law judge. Within 5 business days of receipt of that request, the Mayor shall request such hearing from the State Office of Administrative Hearings. SMC 4.20.860(C)
At the hearing, the employee must prove the retaliation claim--that unfair treatment resulted from the employee's whistleblower activity--by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). The administrative law judge shall issue a final decision no later than 45 days after the date of the request for hearing was delivered to the Mayor (unless extensions were allowed). Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 42.41.040(6) If retaliation is found, the administrative law judge may grant reinstatement, with or without back pay, and such injunctive relief as may be found to be necessary in order to return the employee to the position held before the retaliatory action and to prevent a recurrence. RCW 42.41.040(7) The Judge may also impose sanctions on the retaliator of up to three thousand dollars and recommend the City suspend, with or without pay, or dismiss the retaliator. RCW 42.41.040(8) The administrative law judge may award costs and reasonable attorneys' fees to the prevailing party. RCW 34.12.039
If you have questions please contact the SEEC Executive Director (See Contact Us.) Please remember that e-mail communications are not secured and thus are not confidential.
See also the Whistleblower Protection Code Frequently Asked Questions.