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What Happens When an Employee Files a Prohibited Personnel Practices Complaint?

​​Our Process

In Ge​ner​​​​​al​:​

OSC reviews your prohibited personnel practice (PPP) complaint, along with any additional materials that you provide with the complaint. OSC looks to see whether there is enough evidence to show that a PPP likely has been, or will be, committed. The determination depends on whether the facts of the case appear to satisfy all of the requirements of the law.

If the evidence does not suggest that OSC could prove that a PPP occurred, OSC informs the complainant of the reasons for the preliminary determination. In most cases, this decision is not final. If OSC has jurisdiction over the case and made a determination on its merits, the complainant will have an opportunity to respond with additional information or to point out any errors or omissions in the preliminary determination. All determinations, whether preliminary or final, are sent in writing.

If OSC determines that the complaint warrants fur ther inquiry, OSC informs the complainant in writing. In addition, the complainant and the agency may be given the option of mediation (further information on OSC's Alternative Dispute Resolution process is available h​ere).​

Delaying Proposed Personnel Actions​:​

Complainants may request that OSC seek to delay or "stay" an adverse personnel action pending an OSC investigation. If OSC has reasonable grounds to believe that the personnel action is the result of a PPP, OSC may ask the agency involved to delay, or in some cases reverse and delay, implementation of the personnel action. If the agency does not agree, OSC may then file a legal request for a stay of the personnel action with the Mreit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). (Note: OSC cannot delay a personnel action on its own authority.) OSC maintains full discretion regarding its decisions to seek a stay from the agency or to make a legal request for a stay from MSPB. OSC generally limits its consideration of stay requests to the most serious personnel actions, such as removals, lenghty suspensions, or geographic reassignments. For more information, see OSC's Policy ​S​tatement on Stays.

​Remedies for Prohibited Personnel Practices:​

OSC can seek corrective action (meaning an action that corrects what happened to the complainant), disciplinary action (meaning an action that penalizes the agency official(s) who committed the PPP ), or both. Frequently, parties engage in OSC's Alternative Dispute Resolution process and settle the issues with the help of a mediator.

Corrective action typically means that OSC seeks to place a complainant in the position they would have occupied if no wrongdoing occurred. For example, an employee suspended for prohibited reasons would receive their back pay and related benefits, with interest. Corrective action can also include attorney's fees, as well as other reasonable and foreseeable costs. The law requires that OSC give the agency the opportunity to correct a PPP before filing a complaint with MSPB.

OSC also has the author ity to request that MSPB discipline agency officials who committed PPPs. The law allows OSC to decide which cases are most appropriate for disciplinary action. Penalties for committing a PPP include removal, reduction in grade (demotion), debarment from federal employment for up to five years, suspension, reprimand, a fine of up to $1,000, or some combination of these penalties. Agency officials accused of committing a PPP in a disciplinary case have certain rights which can be found at 5 C.F.R. Part 1201, Subpart D.

Occasionally, while PPP cases are under investigation, agencies may seek to discipline the agency official(s) believed to be responsible for the PPP. If agency officials are under OSC investigation, agencies may not discipline them without OSC's approval. 5 U.S.C. § 1214(f)​.

Individual Right of Actions (IRA) with the Merit Systems Protection Board:

Complainants who allege retaliation for making protected whistleblower disclosures under 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8) or retaliation for engaging in certain protected activities under 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(9) may seek corrective action in direct appeals to MSPB. Such efforts are known as "individual right of action" (or IRA) appeals. By law, complainants must first seek corrective action from OSC before filing IRA appeals. An IRA appeal may be filed:

  • After OSC closes a matter alleging retaliation for protected disclosures or certain protected activities has been alleged; or
  • 120 days after such a complaint is filed with OSC if OSC has not notified the complainant that it will seek corrective action.

Procedures for filing an IRA appeal are set forth in MSPB regulations at 5 C.F.R. Part 1209. (Note: In considering IRA appeals, MSPB may refuse to accept any matters that were not specifically presented to OSC first. Similarly, MSP B will only consider retaliation allegations in IRA appeals.)

For more information, please see OSC fact sheets "How Complaints are Received and Processed ," "How Complaints are Investigated and Prosecuted," and "How OSC's Mediation Program Works ." Other information is also available here.