Most of us would like to live in a world where whistleblowers are free from retaliation.
However, the cold, hard truth is that whistleblowers come under attack all the time because of their efforts to clean up the government.
Congress was well aware of this fact when it passed the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) in 1985.
Thanks to the WPA, the United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has the power to protect whistleblower employees by investigating claims of whistleblower retaliation.
That said, filing an OSC complaint isn’t easy.
In this article, we’ll go over how you can file an OSC whistleblower complaint and how to ensure that you’re eligible to file an OSC complaint.
We’ll also touch on what you can expect from the OSC complaint process.
However, if you have more questions or think that you are the target of whistleblower retaliation because you called out your government employer, contact a qualified federal employment attorney right away.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible to File an OSC Complaint?
To file an OSC complaint, you need to meet four requirements.
Verifying that you meet these requirements will ensure that the OSC properly reviews your complaint and does not screen it out.
Requirement #1: Current or Former Employee of the U.S. Government’s Executive Branch
The OSC doesn’t protect private sector whistleblowers.
It also doesn’t have any jurisdiction over whistleblowing complaints filed by employees of the military, CIA, NSA, or FBI.
Requirement #2: Protected Disclosure
To qualify as a whistleblower, an employee must make a “protected disclosure.”
A federal employee makes a protected disclosure when they blow the whistle on an agency action that they reasonably believe to be:
- A violation of law, rule, or regulation;
- A substantial and specific danger to public health or safety;
- Censorship related to research, analysis, or technical information;
- Gross mismanagement;
- Gross waste of funds; or
- An abuse of authority.
Simply reporting your boss for being rude or micromanaging your team doesn’t qualify as a protected disclosure.
The action or behavior that you report must fit into one of the categories listed above.
Requirement #3: Adverse Action By Agency
Obviously, a claim of whistleblower retaliation requires that the employer act against the employee.
Retaliation can take on many forms, including:
- Change of duties,
- Demotion, and
- Denial of leave requests
Just threatening to take negative action against an employee also counts as an adverse action.
Requirement #4: The Agency’s Adverse Action Is Connected to Your Protected Disclosure
When you submit your OSC complaint, you need to be able to demonstrate that the action your agency took against you was caused by your protected disclosure.
You can prove this through emails, letters, video evidence, or even the timing between the two events.
If you meet these four requirements, you’re probably eligible to file an OSC complaint under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
How to File an OSC Complaint Under the Whistleblower Protection Act
To submit a complaint of whistleblower retaliation, you need to fill out and submit a copy of OSC Form 14. Filling out the form is quite a long process.
Be ready to fill in your contact information, whether you’re covered by a collective bargaining agreement, your current employment status, and the specific protected disclosures that you made.
Because of the complexity of the form, we recommend that you consult an attorney to ensure that your complaint is submitted successfully.
How Long Does OSC Take to Process a Whistleblower Complaint?
There’s no easy answer to this question.
The time it takes for OSC to process and investigate your complaint depends on the complexity of your allegations, the amount of evidence you have, and other factors.
That being said, you can expect the process to take between120 days and 240 days.
Do You Need Legal Counsel Because You’re the Target of Whistleblower Retaliation?
OSC investigates whistleblower complaints as a matter of government policy.
However, an OSC examiner is under no obligation to represent your personal interests.
That’s why you need an attorney on your side if you’re planning to file an OSC complaint.
The Federal Employment Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC understands the invaluable service that whistleblowers provide to our country.
Our goal is to provide outstanding representation to anyone brave enough to call out injustice and wrongdoing in the federal workplace.
Once one of our attorneys takes up your case, we’ll go the extra mile to defend your rights against your employer.
We’ll also fight to ensure that the OSC takes your complaint seriously and properly investigates your complaint.
Still a little hesitant to contact an attorney? Don’t be. You have nothing to lose because all our initial consultations are free.