The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is charged with protecting federal employees from PPPs. As such, they work as an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency that functions as a safe mechanism through which federal employees can report wrongdoing. The OSC also offers alternative dispute resolution resources, including mediation, in addition to outreach, training, and certification programs.
OSC authority is granted through four federal statutes:
- Civil Service Reform Act
- Whistleblower Protection Act
- Hatch Act
- Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights ACT (USERRA)
What Are Prohibited Personnel Practices
Prohibited personnel practices, or PPPs, are banned federal employment-related activities. Activities that violate the merit system can include various situations, such as employment discrimination, improper hiring practices, and failure to comply with federal employment laws or regulations.
According to the OSC, examples of PPPs include:
- Considering inappropriate recommendations
- Coercing political activity
- Obstructing competition
- Influencing withdrawal from competition
- Granting unauthorized advantage
- Whistleblower retaliation
- Veterans’ preference issues
Other PPPs can include violating rules that implement a merit system principle, imposing an NDA that doesn’t allow whistleblowing, and accessing someone’s medical records to further the committing of another prohibited personnel practice.
Review our blog for more information on prohibited personnel practices.
Filing a Complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
Most executive branch federal employees, federal employment applicants, and former federal employees can file a complaint with the OSC. Claims of prohibited personnel practices are filed online using OSC Form 14. While the form contains fields for all the information needed to file a complaint, the complainant can also provide the information in the form of an attached document or letter with their signed Form 14.
The OSC then reviews complaints and makes a preliminary determination regarding whether there is enough evidence to demonstrate that a PPP has been/will be committed. Preliminary determinations generally are not final, and in cases where necessary, the claimant may have the opportunity to provide additional information or correct any errors or omissions.
Common remedies and actions taken during the OSC complaints process:
- The complainant and the associated agency may be offered alternative dispute resolution remedies, such as mediation
- Adverse personnel actions may be delayed while the OSC investigation is pending
- The OSC may seek corrective action
- The OSC may seek disciplinary action with the help of the MSPB
Currently, OSC complaints must be filed electronically as the OSC is not able to process paper filings.
OSC Complaints Management
While you do not necessarily need to retain an attorney when filing an OSC complaint, it is highly recommended. PPP complaints are complicated, and the outcome of your filing has the potential to impact your entire career and your livelihood. As such, it is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer experienced in managing OSC complaints, like John P. Mahoney, Esq.
Your lawyer can help you with the following:
- Preparing and filing all appropriate forms and paperwork
- Responding to preliminary decisions, including submitting any additional information needed
- Providing professional guidance throughout the process
- Answering your questions and helping you make important legal decisions with confidence
When dealing with an OSC complaint, it is crucial that you have someone on your side, helping you through the complaints process. This is especially important in cases where you have suffered (or expect to suffer) adverse actions, such as suspensions, demotions, or termination.
The Law Firm of John p. Mahoney, Esq., Attorney at Law, understands how frustrating and scary it can be to be victimized by a federal employer engaging in prohibited personnel practices. Our team is standing by to help you file an OSC complaint and seek justice today. Send us a message online to schedule a consultation.