WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION POLICY

UNITED WAY OF GREATER STARK COUNTY

I. Policy

The United Way of Greater Stark County (UWGSC) is committed to protecting employees, clients, donors, volunteers and applicants for employment from interference with making a protected disclosure or retaliation for having made a protected disclosure or for having refused an illegal order as defined in this policy.

In compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (codified at 18 U.S.C. - 1514A), UWGSC established these procedures to facilitate the making of disclosures. This provides protection from retribution to persons who seek to make disclosures of wrong doing against a staff member, Officer, Board member or volunteer. This policy does not replace the existing grievance process. It is to be followed only if a staff member, volunteer, donor or member of the public elects to make a disclosure of suspected or alleged corrupt or improper conduct and seeks protection under the Act.

Pursuant to this policy, individuals are forbidden from preventing or interfering with whistleblowers who make good faith disclosures of misconduct. Finally, UWGSC will exercise reasonable efforts to:

  • investigate any complaints of retaliation or interference made by whistleblowers;

  • take immediate steps to stop any alleged retaliation; and

  • discipline any person associated with the UWGSC found to have retaliated against or interfered with a whistleblower.

II. Definitions

Adverse Action - any action taken or threatened by UWGSC or its employees, volunteers, Board of Directors or Officers that negatively affects the terms or conditions of the whistleblower-s status at the United Way, including, but not limited to: employment, promotion, agency allocation or service receipt.

Allegation by Whistleblower - any disclosure, written or oral, to appropriate UWGSC Board of Directors, Officers, Ethics Officer or Committee, volunteers or Management Staff that the United Way or one of its employees, volunteers or Board Members has failed to respond adequately to an allegation of misconduct or has retaliated against or interfered with the individual who made an allegation of misconduct as defined in this policy.

Conflict of Interest - a conflict of interest exists when any individual charged with the responsibility of processing or investigating an allegation of retaliation or interference related to a whistleblower complaint has a direct personal relationship with either the whistleblower or alleged retaliator. Direct personal relationship includes a relationship with a member of the immediate family; a direct employment relationship, or an employment relationship with a member of the immediate family (either currently, or in the past, directly supervised or was directly responsible to, the individual); or a financial relationship with the individual or a member of the immediate family.

Good Faith Disclosure of Misconduct - a whistleblower allegation of misconduct made with a belief in the truth of the allegation based upon the facts. An allegation is not in good faith if made with reckless disregard or willful ignorance of facts that would disprove the allegation.

Interference - any attempt by the UWGSC, or any person associated with the UWGSC, to prevent a whistleblower from reporting an allegation of misconduct, or to influence the nature of such a report.

Misconduct - any activity in violation of any state, federal, local law or regulation or UWGSC policy undertaken by a UWGSC employee, volunteer, Officer or Board of Directors member, in the performance of the individual-s official duties, whether or not such action is within the scope of his or her relationship to or within the UWGSC. This includes but is not limited to, corruption, malfeasance, bribery, theft of UWGSC property, fraudulent claims, fraud, coercion, conversion, malicious prosecution, misuse of UWGSC property and facilities, or willful omission to perform duty.

Retaliation - any adverse action or credible threat of an adverse action taken in response to a whistleblower-s good faith allegation of misconduct or cooperation with an investigation of an allegation by the UWGSC, or any employee, volunteer, Officer or Board of Director member or person under contract with the UWGSC. It does not include an investigation into the whistleblower-s alleged participation in the illegal conduct.

I. Retaliation/Interference Reporting Process

Filing a Report - Anyone may file a confidential report with the UWGSC-s Ethics Officer alleging retaliation or interference. Reports filed under this policy must be filed no later than 180 days from the date the whistleblower became aware, or should have become aware of the alleged adverse action.

The complaint may be directly filed with the Federal Government or the State of Ohio also, though individuals are encouraged to contact the Ethics Officer.

Contents of a Report - The report must be in writing and should include specific information and pertinent documentation supporting the whistleblower's allegation of retaliation. It should include:

  • a copy of the report of misconduct or cooperation with the investigation of misconduct (if available to the whistleblower);

  • an explanation of the alleged interference with the filing of such a report or retaliation;

  • the nature and date of the alleged retaliation or interference or discovery of the same;

  • the name of the person(s) who allegedly took the action;

  • the name, address, and phone number of the whistleblower, or whistleblower's representative, if any; and

  • a sworn statement, that the contents of the written complaint are true, or are believed by the whistleblower to be true.

Report Review and Acknowledgement to the Whistleblower -

 A) The Ethics Officer will respond to the whistleblower within 10 business days of receipt of the whistleblower's allegation. The Ethics Officer shall convene the Ethics Committee which will:

  • Review the allegation;

  • Determine whether an investigation is justified;

  • Notify the whistleblower in writing of the following:

  • The date the allegation was received by the Ethics Officer;

  • Whether the allegation is complete and provides sufficient information to permit an adequate investigation;

  • The mechanism for resolving the complaint of retaliation/interference, including the whistleblower-s rights, requirements, process of investigation, the composition of the investigation panel and possible consequences associated with this process.

 B) The whistleblower may, within 5 working days, raise concerns about the proposed resolution process. If this occurs, the Ethics Officer shall exercise reasonable efforts to address those concerns in administering a resolution process.

 C) If the whistleblower has not responded to the Ethics Officer notice of resolution process within 5 working days, the Ethics Officer will assume acceptance.

 D) The whistleblower must file any supporting documentation within 10 business days from the initiation of an investigation.

Notification of Whistleblower's Legal Rights - If the whistleblower declines the UWGSC's proposed process according to these Guidelines, he or she may pursue any other legal rights available for resolution of the retaliation complaint. Ethics Committee decision to implement an investigation does not bar the whistleblower from seeking redress against the UWGSC's decision under other provisions in this policy, under State law, institutional procedure, policy or agreement, or as otherwise provided by law.

Notification to Appropriate Governmental Offices - The Ethics Officer will inform appropriate governmental offices of the receipt of a whistleblower's retaliation/interference allegation within 10 business days of receipt.

IV. Interim Protections

At any time before the merits of a whistleblower-s complaint have been fully resolved, the whistleblower may submit a written request to the Ethics Officer to take interim actions to protect the whistleblower against an existing adverse action or credible threat of same by the UWGSC, or a person associated with the UWGSC.

Based on the available evidence, the Ethics Officer shall consult with appropriate staff to make a determination regarding the provision of interim protections. The Ethics Officer will then make a recommendation to the United Way President and Chairman of the Board regarding interim protective actions. The whistleblower will be informed of the decision in writing. Documentation underlying the decision shall become part of the record of the allegation. When the whistleblower allegation is fully resolved, any temporary measures taken to protect the whistleblower may be discontinued or replaced with permanent remedies.

V. Resolving Allegations of Retaliation/Interference

For each whistleblower allegation received, and judged by the Ethics Committee to require an investigation, the United Way will adhere to the investigation process described below for resolving the whistleblower complaint.

Institutional Investigation

 A) Timeliness - An investigation of whistleblower retaliation shall be timely, objective and thorough. In most cases, the process should be completed within 180 days of the date the report is filed, unless the whistleblower agrees to an extension of time.

 B) Investigation Panel -The Ethics Committee will conduct the investigation. The investigation panel may include members from outside the UWGSC Board of Directors. No member shall have a personal or professional relationship causing a conflict of interest with the whistleblower or the alleged individual retaliator(s), and each shall be qualified to conduct a timely, objective and thorough investigation. The whistleblower will be provided an opportunity to review the membership of the investigation panel, and be afforded an opportunity to comment on it, with respect to any perceived conflicts of interest or bias among the panel-s members.

 C) Conduct of Panel - The investigation will include the collection and examination of all relevant evidence, including interviews with the whistleblower, the alleged retaliator(s), and any other individual(s) who can provide relevant and material information regarding the claimed retaliation. Individuals are expected to fully cooperate with the investigation. The investigation panel will use reasonable administrative means to obtain testimony, documents, and other materials relevant to the investigation.

 D) Confidentiality - The confidentiality of all participants in the investigation shall be maintained to the maximum extent possible throughout the investigation.

 E) Final Report from Panel - The conclusions of the investigation shall be documented in a written report from the investigative panel and made available to the whistleblower, the Ethics Officer, the President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The report shall include a detailed description of the investigative process, including findings of fact, a list of individuals interviewed, an analysis of the evidence, and recommendations. Record of the report will be maintained by the Ethics Officer and President in accordance with the UWGSC Records Retention Policy.

 F) Institutional Determination - Based upon this final report and a review of the evidence, the United Way Board of Directors will make a final institutional determination as to whether retaliation or interference occurred.

VI. Sanctions for Retaliation/Interference

If the Ethics Officer determines that retaliation or interference has occurred, he/she, with input from the Ethics Committee, shall also determine what remedies are appropriate to satisfy the UWGSC's obligation to protect the whistleblower. The Chairman of the Board of Directors, in consultation with the whistleblower and Ethics Officer, takes measures to protect or restore the whistleblower's position and reputation, including making any public or private statements, as appropriate. In addition, the Chairman of the Board of Directors may provide protection against further retaliation by monitoring or disciplining the retaliator. If, however, the Ethics Committee determines that an adverse action would have been taken relative to the whistleblower, even in the absence of the whistleblower's allegations or participation in the investigation, then no corrective action will be taken to adjust that adverse action.

VII. Notice of Institutional Policy

The UWGSC shall make this policy available to its staff, volunteers and donors by posting it on its website.

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