What are Prohibited Personnel Practices (PPP)?

The United States Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has outlined a series of 12 Prohibited Personnel Practices (PPP) that federal and government employees, employers, and agencies must avoid. As first mentioned in the Pendleton Act of 1883, the adherence to this set of guidelines and the elimination of PPP throughout the government should assure the faithful, responsible, and fair management of our country. If you are involved with the federal government in anyway, either as an employee or as a controller of an important agency, you should know at least the basics of the 12 PPPs.

  1. Discrimination: The most well-known PPP is discriminating against someone in any circumstance based on their race, color, religion, sex, nationality, age, marital status, political affiliation, or disabled status.
  2. Considering recommendations: No recommendations can be considered by someone who does not have adequate knowledge or records regarding the recommendation’s purpose or the employee in question. This PPP is meant to stop both favoritism and hiring people unqualified for important positions.
  3. Coercing political activity: No government official or employee can use their position for political gain, or to influence a political agent in any way or to any end. This PPP is closely tied to the Hatch Act.
  4. Obstructing competition: The competition for employment or promotion cannot be willfully or intentionally obstructed, coerced, or otherwise prevented by a government agent.
  5. Influencing withdrawal from competition: As a sibling PPP to the previous, this one states that willful and intentional acts cannot be conducted by a government agent or group that would attempt to or successfully convince someone to withdraw from an employment competition, such as retracting their application.
  6. Gaining an advantage: There shall be no unlawful advantages given to candidates, potential employees, or employers, especially for questionable motives. An advantage can be a benefit gained by a favored person, or a disadvantage imposed upon a disfavored person.
  7. Nepotism: A relative of any kind – from father to brother to step-mother to first cousin and so on – cannot be appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced directly by their relative in an influential position. The PPP of nepotism also bans clear personal favoritism within federal and government workplaces, even if no apparent benefits are immediate ascertained.
  8. Whistleblower retaliation: Government employers may not retaliate against an employee or agent for whistleblowing or exposing wrongdoing or criminal activity. An employee who is considered a whistleblower may also not make unreasonable efforts to halt productivity within their workplace based on wrongdoing allegations.
  9. Other retaliation: Any employee of the government with influence within their agency cannot punish or favor another employee based on whistleblowing, testifying or participating in a whistleblowing case, or refusing to complete a work-related duty that would also constitute an illegal activity.
  10. Other discrimination: Off-duty conduct that does not negatively impact a federal employee’s job performance or place of business cannot be used as a basis of penalization or promotion.
  11. Veteran’s preference: A military veteran may be granted certain preferential treatment in employment competitions, based on the 1998 Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA). Employers or employees of federal agencies may not knowingly discriminate against or intentionally overlook a veteran’s application.
  12. Violating rules that implement a merit system principle: The PPP with the longest title, PPP 12 more or less states that any other act that could potentially be seen as a PPP in the right circumstances may be seen as such, depending on the discretion of a judge, advisor, board member, or any other overseeing person of authority.

For detailed information about the MSPB PPP list, you can click here to visit the board’s website directly. If you believe a PPP was violated by your employer and it has negatively impacted your federal employment status, you can contact us for legal assistance from federal employment attorney John P. Mahoney.