UCR invites comments on proposed whistleblower policies

March 23, 2022
Ian Harazduk
Compliance Analyst & Privacy Officer
Chief Compliance Office
March 23, 2022

The UCR Policy Office invites comments on the UCR local procedures for the Whistleblower and Whistleblower Protection Policy. To aid in the review, this notice provides background and context on the purpose of the proposed local procedure and summarizes the development process.  

Background and Goals. The systemwide UC Whistleblower Policy (WP) was issued in 2012 and the systemwide UC Whistleblower Protection Policy (WPP) was issued in 2015. Both policies reflect UC’s mandatory obligation to adhere to California law in this area (Government Code Sections 8547 et seq.)  Both UC whistleblower policies indicate that campuses “will” have local implementing procedures.

•    The UC has a responsibility to investigate and report to appropriate parties allegations of suspected improper governmental activities (IGAs) or significant threats to public health and safety, as required by California’s whistleblower law. The WP sets out functional responsibilities across the University to address such reports. The WP defines terms, many of which are defined by the California Code. The WP provides some information about how reports are reviewed and assessed and how decisions are made to investigate. The WP requires the Chancellor at each campus to appoint a Locally Designated Official (LDO) who is responsible for establishing mechanisms to ensure compliance with the policy, and chair an Investigations Group that includes representatives from functional units responsible for investigations. It does not include investigative procedures; this is left for campus local procedures to cover.  
o    At UCR, as at most UC campuses, the LDO is the Chief Compliance Officer.  

•    The WPP is a companion policy to the WP. It prohibits a form of retaliation against people who make a whistleblower report, or engage in certain other protected activities, and establishes a procedure for people who experience prohibited retaliation to file a complaint and obtain relief. The WPP is a detailed policy that does not leave significant gaps to be addressed by campus local procedures. As discussed below, UCR created its local implementing procedure for the WPP in 2019. We are now proposing to reissue it together with the WP local procedure, with minor, technical revisions to the WPP.  

Development Process; Academic Senate Review.  On March 1, 2019, the LDO with approval from the Chancellor issued UCR’s local procedure for the Whistleblower Protection Policy. Following that issuance, the next step was to develop a local procedure for the WP that would be combined with the existing local procedure for the WPP. In Fall 2019, the first draft of the combined WP and WPP local procedure was produced. The draft was shared and refined with stakeholders. The Chief Compliance Office then submitted the draft to UCOP in August 2020, which is explicitly required in the WP (Section IV(A)(4)). Feedback was received on the draft in June 2021. Further revisions were made and the draft shared with the Investigations Group and the Communication and Policy Coordination Group (CPCG) in Fall 2021. The updated draft policy was then sent for review by the Academic Senate and additional feedback was received in March 2022, which was incorporated into the draft.  

Key Elements of Policy. Many provisions of the proposed UCR local procedure are dictated by or echo provisions in the UC policies, and/or state law, and therefore cannot be substantively changed. (The University Whistleblower Policy specifies that it is the controlling policy document, and that it supersedes any other local policy related to the matter.) To aid in the notice and comment process, the policy owner has highlighted provisions/elements of the proposed local procedure that are not dictated by systemwide policy or law, and therefore could be altered. They fall in four areas: 

1.    Retaliation: Section II, Definitions (Adverse Action, Protected Activity and Retaliation) and Section III(A). 
In 2020, the Campus Culture Task Force Report recognized the need to strengthen the campus’ commitment to addressing and eliminating retaliation. Per results from the Staff Engagement Survey, it is clear that fear of retribution still exists and threatens our efforts to address instances of unethical or unlawful behavior or improper conduct. However, the WP does not itself define retaliation, so we here in our local procedures are providing a definition – the one used in civil rights contexts (SVSH and anti-discrimination policies) and the campus Anti-Bullying (650-76) policy.
2.    Initial Assessment of Reports: Section IV(C) Section IV(D)
The WP dictates some important aspects of the initial process of a report or complaint being received and how it is considered, including the LDO’s responsibility to consult the Investigations Group and other subject matter experts when initiating an investigation as well as the responsibilities of Investigations Group. The proposed local procedure provides additional detail including about how certain types of reports are reviewed or referred and about steps for intake and interim measures.
3.    Investigation: Section IV(F)
The WP requires that units with investigative authority carry out investigations in accordance with appropriate laws, regulations and policies and that all employees have a duty to cooperate with investigations initiated under the WP. The proposed local procedures provide additional details related to investigations such as how the LDO charges and scopes an investigation, when and how parties are notified, how interviews and advisors are handled, procedures for evidence collection, and processes related to the investigation report and eventual closure.
4.    FAQs: Appendix A
The FAQs include questions and answers to Whistleblower complaints, such as actions that should be taken by a manager or supervisor if a complaint is received and general practices for particular type of reports. There is an FAQ section on Retaliation, which provides further guidance on what is retaliation, who is protected from it, how to prevent retaliation as a manager and supervisor, and some differences between retaliation in the local procedure and retaliation as defined in the WPP. There is also an FAQ section on IGAs, which explain what is an IGA, and examples of IGAs pulled from the California State Auditor.

Campuswide Review.  Campuswide review is a public notice and comment period to inform the UCR community, especially affected employees and students, about policy and local procedural proposals. Feedback and input are encouraged and will be carefully considered.  

You can find the proposed local procedures on the Chief Compliance Office site. For more information about the policy, please see the posting for the 30-day Notice and Comment Period. We would appreciate receiving your comments no later than April 21, 2022. Please submit your comments via the Policy Comment Form or to policy@ucr.edu.   

If you have questions regarding this policy, please contact the Chief Compliance Office at policy@ucr.edu or 951-827-8246.