What are Prohibited Personnel Practices (PPP)?

As a federal employee, you have certain rights and protections in the workplace. One of these rights includes protection from prohibited personnel practices, which are personnel actions that violate federal law and interfere with the merit-based system of employment.

If you've been affected by a PPP violation, you have rights! Contact the experienced federal employment lawyers at The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC to learn more.

What Are Prohibited Personnel Practices in Federal Employment?

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), prohibited personnel practices (PPP) violate fair employment practices and merit system principles. These practices include discrimination, nepotism, reprisal for whistleblowing, and interfering with civil service examinations. It's important to know that federal employees are protected from these practices under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, 5 U.S.C. § 2302.

Examples of Prohibited Personnel Practices

There are 12 prohibited personnel practices for federal employees and their employers:

  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 stepmother 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 immediately 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 for 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.

Applying Prohibited Personnel Practices in Federal Employment Situations

Federal agencies are required to not violate these laws when it comes to taking, failing to take, or threatening to take or fail to take personnel actions against their employees. However, if you believe you've been the victim of a prohibited personnel practice, knowing how to report it is essential.

The first step should be to retain an experienced federal employment attorney. They can help you review your options and prepare for reporting the prohibited personnel practice. 

Potential Consequences of Engaging in Prohibited Personnel Practices

Employers engaging in prohibited personnel practices can face serious consequences, including disciplinary action up to and including removal and banning from federal service. As a federal employee, you must protect yourself by reporting any PPP experience. Document any evidence you have to support your claim and seek representation by an attorney of our law firm.

What to Do If You Suspect a Violation

If you suspect a prohibited personnel practice has occurred, acting quickly is important. First, you should consult with an attorney at our firm. Then, you should file a PPP disclosure with the Office of Special Counsel or an EEO complaint with your agency's EEO office, if the PPP you have suffered is EEO discrimination or retaliation.

Defending Your Rights & Your Career

As a federal employee, you have the right to a workplace free from discrimination and other prohibited personnel practices. At The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, our team can represent and advocate for you to help you protect your federal career. Call us today at (202) 350-3881 to request your initial consultation with one of our attorneys.