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Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act

Submitted by gillian.edwards on Wed, 10/12/2016 - 11:28am

The Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower) Act applies to provincial government departments, offices of the Legislature and to public entities. Public entities include any agency, board, commission, Crown corporation, or other entity designated in the Regulations.

The purposes of the Act are to:

  • Facilitate the disclosure and investigation of significant and serious matters an employee believes may be unlawful, dangerous or injurious to the public interest;
  • Protect employees who make a disclosure;
  • Manage, investigate and make recommendations respecting disclosures or wrongdoings and reprisals; and
  • Promote public confidence in the administration of the departments, Legislative offices and public entities.

The Regulations were approved by Cabinet on May 15, 2013.

What is the purpose and scope of PIDA?

PIDA facilitates the disclosure and investigation of alleged wrongdoing of employees of public entities and protects employees who report alleged wrongdoing from reprisal. PIDA applies to public entities created by the Province of Alberta, including the University of Calgary. PIDA applies only to alleged wrongdoing committed after June 1, 2013.

PIDA does not apply to complaints by students or about students. These are addressed by other university policies and procedures.

What is a disclosure?

A disclosure under PIDA is when an employee of a public entity, acting in good faith, reports an alleged wrongdoing by the public entity to the public entity's designated PIDA officer. The university's designated PIDA officer is the Protected Disclosure Advisor, Shirley Voyna Wilson.

What is a wrongdoing?

PIDA defines wrongdoings as:

a) a contravention of legislation or regulations passed by the Province of Alberta or by the federal government of Canada;
b) an act or omission that creates:

  • (i) a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of individuals other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of an employee, or
  • (ii) a substantial and specific danger to the environment;

c) gross mismanagement of public funds or a public asset; or
d) knowingly directing or counselling an individual to commit a wrongdoing mentioned above

What is a reprisal?

PIDA provides protection from reprisals for employees who in good faith seek advice about making a disclosure, make a disclosure, cooperate in an investigation or refuse to participate in a wrongdoing. PIDA defines reprisal as:

a) a dismissal, layoff, suspension, demotion or transfer, discontinuation or elimination of a job, change of job location, reduction in wages, change in hours of work or reprimand;
b) any other measure that adversely affects the employee's employment or working conditions; and
c) threats to do any of the above.

To whom should wrongdoings be reported under PIDA?

PIDA requires employees who wish to make a disclosure to utilize the public entity's internal disclosure procedures as the first step for reporting alleged wrongdoing. The university's disclosure procedures are governed by the Code of Conduct and outlined in the Procedures for Protected Disclosures.

The university's Protected Disclosure Advisor is the designated PIDA officer and the first point of contact for employees who want to disclose alleged wrongdoing. The Protected Disclosure Advisor is responsible for assessing whether or not to investigate; overseeing investigations of alleged wrongdoing; reviewing the report of the investigation's findings and making recommendations to the President of the University, who is the University's Chief Officer for purposes of PIDA.

Where internal procedures fail to resolve the matter and in some other instances, such as reprisal, employees may also disclose directly to thePublic Interest Commissioner.

What information is required to make disclosure under PIDA?

Under PIDA, a disclosure must be in writing. If made verbally the Protected Disclosure Advisor must make a written record of the disclosure and the person making the disclosure must date and sign it.

The written disclosure must include the following information if known:

a)      A description of the alleged wrongdoing;

b)      The name of the individual(s) alleged to have committed the wrongdoing or to be about to commit the wrongdoing;

c)       The date(s) of the alleged wrongdoing;

d)      If the disclosure is made to the Public Interest Commissioner, whether the disclosure has been made pursuant to the procedures established by the public entity to investigate disclosures or wrongdoing and if so, a copy of the response;

e)      Any additional information that the designated PIDA officer or Public Interest Commissioner may reasonably require to investigate the matters set out in the disclosure.

How confidential is the process?

The identity of employees who make a disclosure or seek advice, witnesses and persons who are alleged to be responsible for a wrongdoing, will be protected to the extent possible.

An investigation of a disclosure must also comply with the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice. As a result, the person against whom the allegation has been made will be told about the allegation and may also be told who made the report.

What if the wrongdoing or misconduct doesn't fit under PIDA?

Employees are encouraged to report allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct to their supervisor or other authorities as specified in  relevant university policies. Reports will be carefully considered and appropriate action will be taken to resolve the concerns. Contact the Protected Disclosure Advisor if you are not sure how to proceed.

Can I make an anonymous complaint?

ConfidenceLine is a third party service provider retained by the university, which allows individuals to anonymously report wrongdoing and sensitive issues in the workplace. ConfidenceLine will communicate the reported concerns to the Protected Disclosure Advisor.

The Protected Disclosure Advisor will acknowledge receipt of the disclosure, assess the disclosure based on the information provided, determine next steps, and inform ConfidenceLine accordingly. ConfidenceLine will then communicate this information to the individual who made the report.

What happens after I make a disclosure to the designated officer?

The Protected Disclosure Advisor reviews the disclosure to determine if it should be dealt with as a Protected Disclosure of wrongdoing, referred to an alternate, more appropriate process, dismissed for being frivolous or vexatious in nature and made in bad faith or dismissed for another valid reason. If the Protected Disclosure Advisor determines the disclosure should be dealt with as a Protected Disclosure, the complaint will be dealt with under the Code of Conduct and the Procedures for Protected Disclosures.

Will my identity be protected?

The identity of a disclosing employee and others involved in the disclosure and investigation process, as well as the information collected, will be protected to the extent possible. Information will be shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know the information.

The Protected Disclosure Advisor, the person making the disclosure and those participating in the investigation have a responsibility to maintain confidentiality and should discuss the disclosure only with the Protected Disclosure Advisor and the persons investigating the alleged wrongdoing.

If the disclosure is made to a Dean, supervisor, the President, or the Chair of the Board of Governors and if the officer has determined that the disclosure should be dealt with as a Protected Disclosure, he or she will transfer the complete file to the Protected Disclosure Advisor.

How will I know what happened with my complaint?

The person who made the disclosure will be notified when the investigation is complete and advised of the findings of the investigation. 

What are the consequences for wrongdoings under PIDA?

An employee who commits a wrongdoing may be disciplined up to and including dismissal, in addition to and separate from any penalty provided by law. Disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with the provisions of any applicable collective agreement.

Can a disclosure be withdrawn?

No, a disclosure cannot be withdrawn once it is made to the Protected Disclosure Advisor.

What can I expect if someone makes a disclosure about me?

An employee against whom a disclosure has been made will be advised of the allegations against him/her and given an opportunity to respond in accordance with the Procedures for Protected Disclosures.