Frequently Asked Questions - Whistleblower

Whistleblower questions

Whistleblower answers

When/How to Report Wrongdoing answers

What Is the Purpose of the Whistleblower Policy?

The Whistleblower Policy is intended to encourage employees and others to make good faith reports of suspected fraud, corruption, or other improper governmental activity, or health and safety concerns within the university to appropriate university officials and to describe the process that will be followed by the university in evaluating and investigating such reports. The focus of the policy is on the reporting of "Improper Governmental Activity" the investigation of which is coordinated by the Administrative Policies & Compliance Office. Other matters that get reported to the compliance office, for example, suspected campus policy violations or various workplace concerns, are generally referred to the management of the responsible department.

What Is Improper Governmental Activity?

Improper Governmental Activity (IGA) is defined in the University's Whistleblower Policy as "Any activity by the University or by a University employee that is undertaken in the performance of the employee's official duties, whether or not that action is within the scope of his or her employment, and that (1) is in violation of any State or federal law or regulation, including, but not limited to, corruption, malfeasance, bribery, theft of government property, fraudulent claims, fraud, coercion, conversion, malicious prosecution, misuse of government property, or willful omission to perform duty, or (2) is economically wasteful, or involves gross misconduct, gross incompetence, or gross inefficiency." This broad definition is derived from State law. Not all instances of improper conduct will constitute IGA. For example, most violations of University policy will not amount to IGA unless the policy violation is also a violation of federal or State law.

How Can I Report Suspected Improper Governmental Activity?

Make a Report at or Call the University Wide *Whistleblower Hotline: (800) 403-4744.

*The Whistleblower Hotline is Independently Operated to Ensure Confidentiality.

If you are an employee, you may also report the matter to your supervisor or other department official, or to one of the following offices:

  • Academic Personnel Office
  • Audit & Advisory Services
  • Campus Human Resources
  • Dean - Graduate Division
  • Environment, Health & Safety
  • Health System Office of Compliance & Privacy
  • Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
  • UCPD

However you choose to make your report, be prepared to provide sufficient factual information, including the names of individuals you suspect are engaged in wrongdoing, as well as when, where, how, and how long the wrongdoing occurred.

How Can I Report Threats to Health/Safety?

Any imminent threat to the health or safety of employees, students, or the public should be reported to UC Berkeley Police by dialing 911 from a campus phone or 2‑3333 from any other phone. If you are concerned that a workplace situation may escalate and result in violence, you can contact UC Berkeley Police or one of UC Berkeley’s human resources offices. Concerns you have about actual and potential environmental hazards can be reported to UC Berkeley Environment, Health & Safety by calling (510) 642-3073.

What Is a Whistleblower?

The term "Whistleblower" is used generally to refer to anyone who reports suspected Improper Governmental Activity, including those who make such reports as part of their job responsibilities, employees, students, or members of the general public. For the purposes of the California Whistleblower Protection Act and the UC Whistleblower Protection Policy, only those reporting suspected Improper Governmental Activity are entitled to the special protections afforded to whistleblowers. A whistleblower is not someone who wishes to file a complaint to seek redress for some adverse employment or academic action/condition who happens to assert some suspected impropriety by the person responsible for the adverse action/condition.

How Do I Contest an Improper Employment Action or Academic Decision

If you have been adversely affected by an employment action or academic decision that you believe violates State or federal law or is otherwise improper, you should contact your department's personnel office if you wish to seek a reversal or modification of the employment action or academic decision. Employees who seek to have such an action reversed/modified and wish to file a formal complaint or grievance can contact the appropriate human resources office (Campus Human Resources, Health System Human Resources, or the Academic Personnel Office) for more information; students can contact the Dean of Students Office. Such complaints cannot be filed anonymously and are not investigated as reports of Improper Governmental Activity under the Whistleblower Policy.

How Do I Report Other Types of Suspected Wrongdoing?

Policy violations and other types of wrongdoing that may not qualify as Improper Governmental Activity should also be reported. If you are an employee, you can report such suspected wrongdoing to a supervisor or manager, provided you do not suspect the supervisor or manager is involved in the wrongdoing. You can also report them directly to the human resources office within your department, or to one of the following offices:

  • Academic Personnel Office
  • Audit & Advisory Services
  • Campus Human Resources
  • Dean - Graduate Division
  • Environment, Health & Safety
  • Health System Office of Compliance & Privacy
  • Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
  • UCP
Can I Report Suspected Impropriety Anonymously?

Yes. Reports of Improper Governmental Activity can be made anonymously by calling the University Whistleblower Hotline. However, anonymous reports are often difficult to investigate if the caller has not provided enough information. Also, anonymous callers cannot purport to represent a larger group (e.g., all the employees in a department) when such representation cannot be verified.

Note that a confidential report is not the same thing as an anonymous one, and it is up to you to decide whether or not to make your report anonymously. Be aware that certain types of reports (e.g., those involving workplace conflicts) often cannot be thoroughly investigated unless the University has a way to contact or interview the involved parties. If the person making the report is a percipient witness to the wrongdoing (where independent verification of the allegations is not practical), the person accused may be provided the report of the wrongdoing, in order that he/she has an opportunity to respond.

What Other Options Do I Have for Reporting Improper Governmental Activity?

In addition to the Hotline, individuals may report suspected Improper Governmental Activity to the Bureau of the State Auditor (800-952-5665) or to the California Attorney General (800-952-5225).

What Happens to Reports of Wrongdoing answers

What Happens After a Report of Suspected Improper Governmental Activity Is Made?

A report made to a supervisor or another department official may be investigated by that official if it is within his/her area of responsibility. A report may be referred to the Locally Designated Official or it may be referred to another office deemed appropriate to look into the matter. The office will determine whether the facts asserted amount to Improper Governmental Activity and whether they are sufficiently detailed and credible to warrant an inquiry. If the allegations of wrongdoing are confirmed, appropriate corrective action will be taken. If the report was made via the Whistleblower Hotline, UC Berkeley responds to the caller with a brief summary of the outcome of the inquiry, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. For personnel privacy reasons, UC Berkeley does not disclose what specific disciplinary actions may have been taken against an employee.

Will My Report of Improper Governmental Activity Be Kept Confidential?

The University's Whistleblower Policy states that "To the extent possible within the limitations of law and policy and the need to conduct a competent investigation, confidentiality of whistleblowers will be maintained. Whistleblowers should be cautioned that their identity may become known for reasons outside of the control of the investigators or University administrators."

Retaliation Against Whistleblowers answers

How Am I Protected from Retaliation If I Report Suspected Improper Governmental Activity?

State law and the University's Whistleblower Protection Policy explicitly prohibits retaliation against employees who report suspected Improper Governmental Activity. In order to reduce the likelihood that retaliation will occur, UC Berkeley shares reports of wrongdoing only with those who need to see it as part of the inquiry into the matter. Ordinarily, the names of those reporting suspected Improper Governmental Activity are kept confidential.

What Can I Do If I Have Been Retaliated Against for Reporting Suspected Improper Governmental Activity?

An employee who believes he/she has been retaliated against may be eligible to file a grievance with the appropriate human resources office (Campus Human Resources, Health System Human Resources, or the Academic Personnel Office). Individuals interested in filing such a grievance should find out what the applicable filing deadline is (in many cases 30 days from when the employee learned of the retaliatory employment action). An employee or applicant for employment may also be eligible to file a Whistleblower Retaliation Complaint within 12 months of when the employee learned of the retaliation. An employee may file both a retaliation complaint and a grievance - in that event the complaint and the grievance are both considered in a single fact-finding process.

Supervisor Responsibilities answers

What Should a Supervisor Do upon Receiving a Report of Suspected Wrongdoing?

If you are in a supervisory role and receive a report of suspected Improper Governmental Activity, if the report was made orally, you should normally document it in writing. You should exercise appropriate judgment in deciding whether the matter can be reviewed under your authority or should be referred to a higher level of management or to the Locally Designated Official. Consulting with supervisors, the Locally Designated Official or other appropriate University management is encouraged and the exercise of judgment should err on the side of upward reporting.

What Must a Supervisor Report to the Locally Designated Official?

All employees in supervisory roles who receive a report of suspected Improper Governmental Activity shall report the matter to the Locally Designated Official if it: is the result of a significant internal control or policy deficiency that is likely to exist at other units at UC Berkeley or across the University system; is likely to receive media or other public attention; involves the misuse of University resources or creates exposure to a liability in potentially significant amounts; involves allegations or events that have a significant possibility of being the result of a criminal act (e.g., disappearance of cash); involves a significant threat to the health and safety of employees and/or the public; or is judged to be significant or sensitive for other reasons.

General Questions answers

What Are the Responsibilities of the Locally Designated Official (LDO)?

The University's Whistleblower Policy and Whistleblower Protection Policy state that the Chancellor of each campus shall appoint a Locally Designated Official who is responsible for responding to reports of suspected Improper Governmental Activity and for evaluating formal complaints made by individuals asserting that employment actions were taken against them in retaliation for having reported suspected Improper Governmental Activity

What Are the Responsibilities of the Retaliation Complaint Officer (RCO)?

The University's Whistleblower Protection Policy provides that the LDO may appoint one or more individuals or a standing body to serve as Retaliation Complaint Officer(s) (RCOs) to oversee the investigation of retaliation complaints. An RCO may delegate conduct of the investigation, including any fact finding, to another person. The Campus Investigations Coordinator currently functions as an RCO and may appoint other RCOs as necessary. 

What Is the Investigations Work Group?

The University's Whistleblower Policy designates that each campus have an Investigations Work Group, chaired by the Locally Designated Official, to coordinate investigations into allegations of Improper Governmental Activity. It includes the LDO, The Director of Audit and Advisory Services, the Office of Campus Counsel and  the Campus Investigations Coordinator.

How Are Employees Notified About the Ways to Report Suspected Improper Governmental Activity?

State law requires that every year, on or about July 1st, the University must send an e-mail notice to all employees with a UC BERKELEY e-mail address, informing them of how to report suspected Improper Governmental Activity. The sending of this annual message is coordinated by the Locally Designated Official which also publishes a poster containing the same information entitled "How to Blow the Whistle on Suspected Improper Activities" that departments can post on bulletin boards.

Who Manages the UC BERKELEY Compliance Hotline and How Does It Work?

The hotline is a toll free number (800-403-4744), that anyone can call to report suspected Improper Governmental Activity at UC BERKELEY. It is staffed 24 hours/day, 365 days/year by an independent company which takes down the information provided by callers and forwards that information to the University. Callers have the option of providing their names or remaining anonymous. A caller is given a report identification number by the hotline operator. With that number he/she can call the hotline back at a later date to be read any response the University may have posted. A response may notify the caller of the outcome of the inquiry or may ask the caller to provide additional information/clarification as needed.

The Locally Designated Official coordinates inquiries into suspected wrongdoing reported to the hotline and posts the responses to callers.

The poster entitled "How to Blow the Whistle on Suspected Improper Activities" can be printed and posted on departmental bulletin boards to inform employees about the hotline.

What Are the Main Laws, Policies, and Entities Relevant to Improper Governmental Activity?

California Government Code Section 8547- 8547.12 (also known as the "California Whistleblower Protection Act") defines Improper Governmental Activity and prohibits retaliation against employees who report it. California Health & Safety Code Section 1278.5 relates to retaliation against healthcare workers who have reported issues relating to care, services, or conditions of a health facility.

The University's Whistleblower Policy and Whistleblower Protection Policy implement the State laws for the University of California's campuses and laboratories.

The Fair Employment & Housing Act prohibits discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment. It requires employers to provide certain accommodations for employees and job applicants with disabilities, medical conditions, and family medical leave needs. It also requires employers to provide leaves of up to four months to employees disabled because of pregnancy or childbirth. See the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing for additional information.

The Office of Civil Rights enforces provision against retaliation in the context of federally sponsored research.