Corruption Matters - May 2017 - Issue 49

Responding to allegations of reprisal

by NSW Deputy Ombudsman Chris Wheeler   

Following a report of wrongdoing, sometimes the reporter may perceive that certain action being taken against them is reprisal. Any concerns expressed by reporters about fear of reprisals should be seriously and promptly addressed. However, in many cases, it may not be appropriate to formally investigate allegations of reprisal.


If there is an existing and extensive history of conflict or dissatisfaction in the workplace that existed prior to the report being made, it is unlikely that an investigation will be able to establish that the detrimental action was motivated by revenge or retribution for the making of the report. If the subject officer or colleagues are not dismissed following an investigation, the working relationship between the parties may become so strained as to be untenable. In such cases, it may be better for managers to concentrate on taking action to stop any further detrimental action, and attempt to repair the existing relationship between the two parties and resolve the issues between them.

When an allegation of reprisal is made, public authorities should conduct an initial assessment and decide whether the report itself constitutes a public interest disclosure and whether it warrants investigation or other action to resolve the issues raised. An informal review or preliminary fact-finding enquiries may need to be conducted in order to obtain information to make a fair and informed decision.

Some of the factors to consider when determining an appropriate response include:

Public authorities have many options for responding to allegations of reprisal and should consider which options might best address the issues raised; for example:

For further advice on responding to allegations of reprisal, contact the NSW Ombudsman’s Public Interest Disclosures Unit at or (02) 9286 1000.

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