The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) handles complaints made by federal employees against federal agencies or supervisors regarding prohibited personal practices and violations of the Hatch Act. These complaints frequently involve retaliatory action against whistleblowers. They may also involve complaints against employees holding specific government positions that are forbidden from engaging in partisan political activity under the Hatch act.
Before Filing a Complaint
Ensure your complaint is best handled by the OSC, and not by the Office of the Inspector General. Either office can be approached with a disclosure of illegal activity, however, the OSC is generally better for filing a complaint about retaliation for whistleblower activity. An attorney can help you decide which forum is better for your complaint. Advantaged for filing your complaint with the OSC include:
- Legally guaranteed confidentiality
- The OSC can order your agency to investigate and report on the information disclosed
- The OSC must advise you for other avenues to disclose the information you present in your complaint.
Filing the Complaint
To file a complaint, you will need to complete the appropriate forms and submit them to the OSC. The OSC uses 3 main forms:
- OSC Form 11: Prohibited Personal Practices (PPP) Complaint
- OSC Form 12: Whistleblower Disclosure Complaint
- OSC Form 13: Hatch Act Violations
The OSC website allows for Forms 11 and 12 to be filed online, but Hatch Act violations must be submitted by mail.
After an investigation, the OSC can decide whether or not to take action. Before taking action, the office must report the investigation to the federal agency head and verify that corrective action is taken. If the agency refuses to take action on its own, the OSC can seek corrective action from the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and the OSC will function as a prosecutor’s office. Criminal violations must be referred to the Department of Justice, but in cases of prohibited personnel practices, the OSC can seek corrective action against the employees involved.
The OSC may decline to take action, which occurs in the majority of cases. If this happens, you have more appeal rights. In cases involving retaliation for whistleblowing, you will be notified of your right to take your case to the MSPB for litigation. Often, you will have to file your complaint with the ISC, before you are able to take your case to the MSPB. If you do take your case to MSPB, you will file an Individual Right of Action. Other types of cases, such as Hatch Act violations, may not have an appeal.
Legal counsel is an important resource when filing a complaint with the OSC. A knowledgeable federal employment law attorney can guide you through the steps of filing a complaint with the OSC, and help you appeal your case to the MSPB if necessary.
Are you a federal employee who has been punished for reporting criminal violations in your agency? Washington DC federal employment lawyers at John P. Maloney, Esq. are here to help. With over 24 years of experience, we have the knowledge to protect you, no matter how complex your case may be. Contact us today at (877) 771-2231 to start your free consultation.