The Marine Mammal Center Whistleblower Policy
The purpose of this Whistleblower Policy (the “Policy”) is to ensure that The Marine Mammal Center (“TMMC”) maintains the highest standards of conduct, safety, competence and ethics. This Policy is designed to encourage employees and volunteers to notify TMMC management of potential misconduct, including:
- Violations of local, state or federal law,
- Misappropriation or other improper or unauthorized use of TMMC’s resources,
- Unsafe conditions or work practices,
- Waste and inefficiency, and
- Other dishonest or fraudulent conduct
This Policy provides a procedure for reporting such suspected conduct (that is, for acting as a “whistleblower”), and prohibits retaliation against anyone who, in good faith, reports such conduct. TMMC will promptly and thoroughly investigate all whistleblower reports, and will take corrective action, as it deems necessary and/or appropriate. Such corrective action may include disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or volunteer services and/or civil or criminal prosecution, when warranted.
Reports of violations or suspected violations of TMMC’s standards will be kept confidential to the extent possible, consistent with the need to conduct a thorough investigation. In addition, individuals may report suspected misconduct anonymously by submitting a letter to either the Human Resources and Operations Manager, Executive Director, or Chief Financial and Operations Officer (the “Compliance Officers”) at The Marine Mammal Center, 2000 Bunker Road, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito, CA 94965, except in the case of complaints regarding safety or harassment, where reporting anonymously is not feasible. If a complaint involves one of the Compliance Officers, such letter may be submitted to either (a) one of the other two Compliance Officers; or (b) the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of TMMC, as may be necessary. While anonymous reporting is acceptable, TMMC encourages and prefers direct reporting in order to facilitate the collection of such additional information as may be necessary to conduct an effective investigation.
III. No Retaliation
TMMC prohibits retaliation against any employee or volunteer who, in good faith and based on reasonable grounds, reports a concern or participates in an investigation pursuant to this Policy. Retaliation includes action taken in response to the whistleblower’s complaint with the intent or effect of adversely affecting the terms or conditions of the whistleblower’s employment, including but not limited to, threats of physical harm, termination of employment, imposition of punitive work assignments, and adverse adjustments to salary, wages or (in the case of volunteers only), schedule.
TMMC will use its best efforts to protect whistleblowers against any such retaliation. If TMMC determines that an individual has retaliated against an employee or volunteer in violation of this Policy, that individual will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or volunteer services.
Whistleblowers or participants in an investigation of misconduct under this Policy who believe that they have been retaliated against may file a written complaint with a Compliance Officer. Any complaint of retaliation will be promptly investigated and appropriate corrective measures taken if it is substantiated.
The protection from retaliation is not intended to prohibit managers or supervisors from taking any adverse employment action, including disciplinary action or termination, when it is warranted based on an employee’s job performance or conduct, nor is it intended to prohibit action by the appropriate volunteer staff for the misconduct or inappropriate action of a volunteer.
IV. How to Report Concerns
Employees who become aware of misconduct are encouraged to share their concerns or complaints with someone who can address them properly and promptly. In most cases, an employee’s immediate supervisor will be in the best position to address such concerns. However, if an individual is not comfortable speaking with a supervisor, or the supervisor is a subject of the concern, or if an individual is not satisfied with the supervisor’s response and continues to have reasonable grounds to believe the concern is valid and has not been appropriately addressed, the individual is encouraged to speak with one of the Compliance Officers. If the individual is uncomfortable speaking with one Compliance Officer, or one of the Compliance Officers is a subject of the concern or has not appropriately or timely addressed the concern, the individual should contact one of the other two Compliance Officers. If the employee is uncomfortable raising the issue with all of the Compliance Officers, or the Compliance Officers are the subject of the concern, or have failed to adequately or in a timely manner address the concern, the employee may report the concern to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors.
A volunteer who observes or obtains information about possible misconduct by an employee or other volunteer is encouraged to report his or her concerns to the Volunteer Coordinator. If the concerns are not appropriately or timely addressed, or they involve the Volunteer Coordinator, the volunteer should report his or her concern directly to on of the Compliance Officers. If the volunteer is uncomfortable raising the issue with one of the Compliance Officers, or if one of the Compliance Officers are the subject of the concern, or have failed to adequately or in a timely manner address the concern, the volunteer may report the concern to the Chairperson.
Individuals are encouraged to report their concerns orally so that TMMC representative receiving the information can ask questions in order to ensure that the concern is fully understood. If the concern is communicated in writing, the individual should provide as much detail as possible regarding the concern or be available for follow up. Failure to provide a complete and accurate description of a concern may impair TMMC’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation.
Anyone reporting a concern must act in good faith and have reasonable grounds for believing the information disclosed indicates a significant improper accounting or auditing practice, a serious safety concern, significant waste or inefficiency in TMMC’s operation, a violation of law or other improper or unauthorized act that may have serious consequences to TMMC. Allegations that are knowingly false or made with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity, that prove to be unsubstantiated, and that prove to have been made maliciously, recklessly, or with the knowledge that they are false, will be viewed as a serious disciplinary offense and may result in discipline, up to and including termination of employment or voluntary services.
The Compliance Officers shall have exclusive responsibility for overseeing investigations of all concerns (except those involving all Compliance Officers, in which case the Chairperson or his/her designee shall serve as the Compliance Officer).
C. External Reporting
This Policy is intended to encourage and enable employees, volunteers and others to raise serious concerns within TMMC prior to seeking resolution outside TMMC. If an individual believes that their concern should be addressed outside TMMC, the individual may report the concern to: California State Attorney General’s Whistleblower Hotline at (800) 952-5225
V. Internal Handling of Reported Violations
The Compliance Officer receiving the report shall immediately notify the Chairperson, the Chair of the Board’s Audit Committee, and the other Compliance Officer of any internal report. (In the event one of the other Compliance Officers is the subject of the report, however, that person need not be notified.) The Compliance Officer shall notify the sender and acknowledge receipt of the concern within a reasonable period of time, generally not more than five (5) business days, except when the report is submitted anonymously. The Compliance Officer(s), or a designated investigator, will interview all appropriate witnesses and review all appropriate documentation or other evidence. The Board’s Audit Committee shall address all reported concerns regarding TMMC accounting practices, internal controls or auditing. The Compliance Officer(s) shall work with the Audit Committee until the matter is resolved, which may include making appropriate recommendations to the Board. Other types of concerns will be promptly investigated by TMMC’s management, in coordination with the Compliance Officer(s), and, as appropriate, outside legal counsel. The Compliance Officer(s), in consultation with the Board (or such members of the Board as may be designated by the Chairperson), has the authority to retain outside legal counsel, accountants, private investigators, or any other resource deemed necessary to conduct a complete investigation of the allegations.
Whistleblowing complaints will be handled with sensitivity, discretion and confidentiality to the extent allowed by the circumstances and the law. Generally this means that whistleblower complaints will only be shared with (a) those within TMMC who have a business need to know so that TMMC can conduct an effective investigation and determine the appropriate action to take based on the results of any such investigation, and (b) in appropriate cases, law enforcement personnel. (If disciplinary or legal action is taken against a person or persons as a result of a whistleblower complaint, such persons may also have the right to know the whistleblower’s identity.)
Upon concluding an investigation, TMMC will make a determination and take corrective action, as appropriate, as recommended to the Executive Director and the Chairperson. TMMC will follow up with the person who submitted the complaint and any other individuals directly involved to let them know the results of the investigation. TMMC will also follow up to make sure that there is no retaliation against anyone who participated in the investigation.
VI. Promoting Awareness of Policy
A copy of this Policy shall be distributed to all current employees and regular volunteers by the Human Resources and Operations Manager. Subsequently, each employee and regular volunteer shall be furnished with a copy of this Policy upon such individual’s initial hiring or commitment to regular volunteer service, respectively.
In addition to this Policy, TMMC supports safety, a harassment-free workplace, zero tolerance of workplace violence, an employee assistance program (EAP) and other employment rights. Information related to these areas is contained in the Center’s Employee Handbook, Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) plan, and 2012 California and Federal Employment Notices Poster.