Douglas County Personnel Rules

Douglas County Personnel Rule #25


25.1        Douglas County Whistleblowing Policy

25.1.1    Douglas County requires Elected Officials, Department Directors, and Employees to observe high standards of business and personal ethics in the conduct of their official duties and responsibilities. As employees and representatives of Douglas County, we must practice honesty and integrity in fulfilling our responsibilities and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

25.1.2    Reporting Responsibility. This Whistleblower Policy ("Policy") is intended to encourage and enable employees to raise serious concerns internally so that Douglas County can appropriately address inappropriate conduct and actions. (When used in this Policy, the term "employees" includes volunteers). It is the responsibility of all Elected Officials, Department Directors, and Employees to report concerns about violations of Douglas County's Ethics Policy (Personnel Rule 20) or suspected violations of law that govern Douglas County's operations. Douglas County also will not prohibit any employee from discussing, in response to an official request, either specifically or generally with any member of the Legislative Assembly, legislative committee staff acting under the direction of a member of the Legislative Assembly, any member of the elected governing body of a political subdivision in the state or any elected auditor of a city, county or metropolitan service district, the activities of: (1) The State or any agency of or political subdivision in the state; or (2) any person authorized to act on behalf of the state or any agency of or political subdivision in the state.

25.1.3    No Retaliation. Douglas County will not retaliate against an employee who discloses information that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of (1) a violation of any federal or state law, rule or regulation by the County; (2) mismanagement, gross waste of funds or abuse of authority or substantial and specific danger to public health and safety resulting from action(s) of the County; or (3) the fact that a person receiving services, benefits or assistance from Douglas County is subject to a felony or misdemeanor warrant for arrest.

Douglas County will not retaliate or take an adverse action against an employee who make reports or discloses information under this Policy when the employee reasonably believes he or she is disclosing information about unlawful or improper conduct, or who participates in good faith in any investigation or proceeding resulting from a report made pursuant to this Policy. Further, Douglas County will not discipline or take adverse action against an employee for refusal to carry out a directive that constitutes fraud or is a violation of applicable federal, state, or local laws, rules, or regulations. All allegations of retaliation for reports made under this Policy will be investigated by the Human Resources Director or their designee. Any employee who retaliates against an employee who has made a complaint, report, or disclosure in good faith under this Policy shall be subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment.

25.1.4    Employee Reporting Procedure. Douglas County has an open door policy and encourages employees to share their concerns, suggestions or complaints with their supervisors. If an employee is not comfortable speaking with his or her supervisor or is not satisfied with the supervisor's response, the employee is encouraged to speak with the Human Resources Director. Supervisors and managers are required to report complaints or concerns about suspected unlawful or improper conduct in writing to the Human Resources Director, who has the responsibility to ensure that all reported complaints are investigated. Employees with concerns or complaints may also submit their concerns in writing directly to their supervisors or the Human Resources Director.  Human Resources Responsibilities. The Human Resources Director is responsible for ensuring that all complaints about improper or unlawful conduct are investigated. The Human Resources Director will advise the Board of Commissioners of all complaints and their resolution.  The Human Resources Director will also promptly and appropriately report to the County Finance Officer on compliance activity relating to alleged financial improprieties.   Acting In Good Faith. Employees reporting or complaining of suspected unlawful or unethical conduct, activity, or practices must act in good faith.  The making of unfounded allegations that are established to have been made maliciously or with knowledge that they were false will be viewed as a serious offense and cause for discipline.  Confidentiality. Employee may make reports, complaints, and disclosures under this Policy on a confidential basis. Confidentiality will be maintained to the extent allowed by law and consistent with the County’s need to need to conduct an adequate investigation and, if appropriate, to take remedial action.  Affirmative Defense. Oregon law provides that, in some circumstances, an employee who discloses a good-faith and objectively reasonable belief of Douglas County’s violation federal, state, or local law, rule or regulation of law will have an “affirmative defense” to a civil or criminal charge related to the disclosure.  For this defense to apply, the disclosure must relate to the conduct of a coworker or supervisor acting within the course and scope of his or her employment.  The disclosure must have been made to either (1) a state or federal regulatory agency; (2) a law enforcement agency; (3) a manager with Douglas County or (4) an Oregon-licensed attorney who represents the employee making the report or disclosure. This defense also only applies in situations where the information disclosed was lawfully accessed by the reporting employee.  Information protected from disclosure under federal law, including but not limited to information of which disclosure is regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-191—“HIPAA”) and HIPAA regulations, may be disclosed only in accordance with federal law.