What is the Office of the Ombudsman?
The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombuds) is an independent, confidential, neutral, and informal resource that helps DOE federal workforce identify, address, and resolve individual, group, and systemic concerns. The Ombuds office, first established in March 2012, is a safe environment to be honest about work experiences without fear of retribution. It is a resource for exploring creative ways to improve working relationships and the overall environment. Ombuds team members provide individual conflict coaching, share constructive problem-solving techniques, help employees find their own solutions to difficult problems, and serve as an important liaison between leadership, management, and staff. The Ombudsman office takes an enterprise-wide view by helping to identify trends, issues, and systemic concerns impacting the entire Department. With employees, managers, and senior leaders playing an active role in working through challenges in a healthy and productive way, the Department will be ready and able to stay focused on the mission.
Ombuds assist staff, supervisors, managers and senior leaders:
- Address any type of workplace challenge
- Explore risks, range of options, and pros/cons for consideration
- Elevate systemic trends when appropriate
- Strengthen collaboration, engagement and accountability
The DOE Office of the Ombuds fully complies with the Administrative Conference of the United States Recommendation 2016-5 to Congress on the use of ombuds in Federal agencies; Coalition of Federal Ombuds program and practice standards; and International Ombuds Association standards of practice and code of ethics. Those four standards include:
- Independent: The Ombuds: reports to the Office of the Secretary and is not aligned under any program or staff office; is a career senior executive, appointed by the Secretary, who holds no other position at DOE; has direct access to the Secretary, senior officials, and all information and records needed to perform duties; and briefs DOE leadership to summarize activities, identify problem areas, raise systemic issues, and make recommendations for positive change.
- Confidential: The Ombuds office is a confidential resource enabling the DOE federal workforce to come forward with issues they might otherwise be reluctant to share, or when they fear retaliation. Ombuds hold all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence. As such, they do not maintain case records and will not voluntarily reveal any communications without your express permission or unless required by law. If the Ombuds office pursues an issue systemically, it is done so in a way that safeguards the identities of individuals.
- Neutral: Ombuds are designated as neutral third parties who strive for impartiality, fairness, and objectivity in the treatment of people and the consideration of issues. They advocate for fair and equitably administered processes and do not advocate on behalf of any individual within DOE. Ombuds help develop a range of responsible options to resolve problems and facilitate discussion to identify the best options.
- Informal: Ombuds use a variety of approaches to help visitors understand the issues and help develop ways to solve problems themselves. The DOE Ombuds office supplements, but does not replace, existing formal channels, and does not serve in any formal investigative, adjudicative, managerial, or oversight capacity. Communications made to an Ombuds do not constitute notice to the Department. Ombuds are not agents for the Department and therefore are not serving in a role that is authorized to receive notice on behalf of the Department. Ombuds may refer individuals to the appropriate office where formal notice can be made.
Please see the Ombuds office for the full description of these standards.
An Ombudsman does not:
- Serve as an advocate for any employees
- Conduct formal investigations
- Serve as a witness or testify in formal proceedings
- Accept or provide official notice of an alleged violation
- Serve as part of any formal grievance or complaint process
- Issue investigative reports
- Make or change policy or administrative decisions
- Make binding decisions
When should I contact the Office of the Ombudsman?
A few examples include when you. . .
- Are uncertain about where to take a workforce problem
- Would like to discuss strategies for preventing, managing, and resolving conflicts
- Want an independent facilitator to assist you or your group in addressing workplace challenges
From the Secretary...
Message from the Deputy Secretary
Get In Touch
Contact the Office of Ombudsman at ombudsman [@] hq.doe.gov, (202) 586-0500 or visit us in the Forrestal Building, Room 1G-053.
Please note that contact with the Office of the Ombudsman does not forestall established timeframes within DOE formal processes, nor does it constitute legal notice to DOE or official notice to initiate a formal process.