The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is a federal agency that focuses on helping whistleblowers.
The OSC primarily investigates claims of whistleblower retaliation and, if necessary, takes action against bad actors.
Thus, the OSC plays a critical role in protecting whistleblowers and encouraging them to report bad actors.
Read on to learn more about the OSC’s methods and how to file a complaint.
What Exactly Does the OSC Do?
The OSC is an independent federal agency that looks into claims of government wrongdoing.
It also accepts complaints from whistleblowers, protects them from retaliation, and holds bad actors accountable across the government.
The OSC also investigates claims of prohibited personnel practices.
This category includes things like illegal discrimination, nepotism, and forcing employees to engage in political activity.
Because of its unique mission, the OSC can force federal employees and agencies to cooperate in an investigation.
It can also force federal employees to testify in court and reveal important and relevant documents. A
nd unlike many other federal agencies that investigate claims, the OSC protects whistleblower’s personal information.
What Kinds of Wrongdoing Does the OSC Review?
When it comes to claims of wrongdoing, there are six major kinds of whistleblower disclosures that the OSC reviews:
- Gross mismanagement—This phrase does not include a minor mistake by your manager once in a while. Gross mismanagement exists if there is a constant pattern of arbitrary action, fraud, or abuse by your manager that has a notable economic impact.
- Gross waste of funds—Like gross mismanagement, this phrase refers to significant expenses that make no sense. An expense that reasonable people might disagree about generally will not make the cut.
- Violation of a law, rule, or regulation—This category is mostly self-explanatory. It does not matter whether the wrongdoer acted intentionally or not.
- Censorship—OSC specifically focuses on censorship claims that have to do with scientific, technical, or analytical information. One example might be a government scientist who disputes an agency’s decision to classify environmental research about a terrible ecological threat to humanity.
- Substantial and specific dangers to public health or safety—In any free country, the public has a right to know about significant dangers. So the OSC protects whistleblowers who reveal these dangers as long as the dangers are not vague or insignificant.
- Abuse of authority—As with gross mismanagement and gross waste of funds, there needs to be a significant degree of abuse. This may mean there is a regular pattern of abuse, or a single instance that was completely out of line.
When in doubt, it is better to come forward with a claim of wrongdoing rather than ignore it.
If you are debating whether to report wrongdoing, contact a federal whistleblower attorney for guidance first.
What is a Prohibited Personnel Practice?
Federal law defines 14 prohibited personnel practices (PPPs). These include the following:
- Asking for or considering recommendations for employment for reasons other than a person’s qualifications for the job;
- Deceiving or preventing someone from competing for federal employment;
- Coercing someone to engage in political activity, like donating to a campaign fund;
- Retaliating against someone for filing a complaint or exercising their rights;
- Retaliating against someone for reporting wrongdoing;
- Discriminating against someone because of conduct unrelated to their job;
- Taking a personnel action against a federal employee for improper or illegal reasons;
- Taking a personnel action that would violate a U.S. veteran’s preference;
- Carrying out a nondisclosure agreement or policy that does not give rights to whistleblowers;
- Illegal discrimination, including race, sex, gender, age, color, and national origin discrimination;
- Nepotism, which means hiring a person because of their family relationships rather than their qualifications for the job;
- Influencing someone to withdraw from competing for a government position;
- Giving unauthorized preference to a person for employment, either to improperly help them or improperly injure the chances of another person; and
- Accessing a person’s medical record, especially if doing so to further another PPP.
As you can see, some of these categories are very broad.
Thankfully, a qualified attorney will be able to help you determine whether your situation falls within one of these categories.
How Do I File a Disclosure of Wrongdoing to the OSC?
The OSC used to offer three different complaint forms online.
Depending on the type of claim you were filing, you had to use a different complaint form. More recently, the OSC introduced a new form for all complaints called OSC Form-14.
You can fill out a copy of OSC Form-14 online and submit it on the OSC’s website.
However, you should know that filling out a complaint in a way with the OSC that best correlates to the law is complicated.
To maximize the chances of your claim being investigated, consult an attorney to help you file out the form.
We Can Help You File an OSC Complaint or Defend Your Rights
Whether you’re considering filing a complaint or suffering whistleblower retaliation, you should obtain legal assistance.
Many government wrongdoers will go to great lengths to protect themselves and punish anyone trying to expose their misdeeds.
Intimidation and threats are all too common.
On top of that, the procedures and laws surrounding whistleblower complaints are quite complex.
If you’re looking for an experienced federal employment lawyer, you have come to the right place.
Our team at the Federal Employment Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC has tremendous experience with whistleblower and PPP complaints before the OSC.
We can help apply the law to your case, inform you of your legal options, and provide you with outstanding legal representation.
Let’s work together to defend your rights and get your fair compensation. Time is critical, so don’t wait another second.