Legal Reference

1730 M St., NW, Suite 218 Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
Phone (202) 254-3600

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent agency primarily responsible for investigating and prosecuting violations of the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and the Hatch Act. OSC also protects the reemployment rights of federal employee military veterans and reservists under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and investigates arbitrary withholding of information subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act.


The OSC is authorized to investigate allegations of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicapping condition. However, procedures for investigating such complaints have already been established in federal agencies and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Therefore, OSC follows a general policy of deferring complaints involving discrimination to those agencies’ procedures.

Allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status, and political affiliation are not within the jurisdiction of the EEOC. Such allegations, however, may be prohibited personnel practices or other violations of law subject to investigation by the OSC.

OSC receives, investigates, and prosecutes allegations of prohibited personnel practices (see Chapter 3 for list), with an emphasis on protecting federal government whistleblowers. OSC seeks corrective action remedies (such as back pay and reinstatement), by negotiation or from the Merit Systems Protection Board, for injuries suffered by whistleblowers and other complainants. OSC is also authorized to file complaints at the MSPB to seek disciplinary action against individuals who commit prohibited personnel practices.

The OSC has jurisdiction over prohibited personnel practices committed against most employees or applicants for employment in executive branch agencies and the Government Printing Office, but not against employees of: the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and certain other intelligence agencies; the Government Accountability Office; the U.S. Postal Service and Postal Rate Commission; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and government corporations.

An individual may request that the Special Counsel seek to delay, or “stay,” an adverse personnel action pending an OSC investigation. If the Special Counsel has reasonable grounds to believe that the proposed action is the result of a prohibited personnel practice, the OSC may ask the agency involved to delay the personnel action. If the agency does not agree to a delay, the OSC may then ask the Merit Systems Protection Board to stay the action.