Legal Reference

Generally, a federal employee authorized to take, direct others to take, recommend or approve any personnel action may not:

• discriminate against an employee or applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicapping condition, marital status, or political affiliation;


• solicit or consider employment recommendations based on factors other than personal knowledge or records of job-related abilities or characteristics;

• coerce the political activity of any person;

• deceive or willfully obstruct anyone from competing for employment;

• influence anyone to withdraw from competition for any position so as to improve or injure the employ¬ment prospects of any other person;

• give an unauthorized preference or advantage to anyone so as to improve or injure the employment prospects of any particular employee or applicant;

• engage in nepotism (that is, hire, promote, or advocate the hiring or promotion of relatives);

• engage in reprisal for whistleblowing—that is, take, fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take a personnel action against an employee or applicant for disclosing to the Special Counsel, or to an inspector general or comparable agency official (or others, except when disclosure is barred by law, or by executive order to avoid harm to the national defense or foreign affairs), information which the employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences a violation of any law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; a gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety;


• take, fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take a personnel action against an employee or applicant for exercising an appeal, complaint, or grievance right; testifying for or assisting another in exercising such a right; cooperating with or disclosing information to the Special Counsel or to an inspector general; or refusing to obey an order that would require the individual to violate a law;

• discriminate based on personal conduct which is not adverse to the on-the-job performance of an employee, applicant, or others;

• take or fail to take, recommend, or approve a personnel action if taking or failing to take such an action would violate a veterans preference requirement; or

• take or fail to take a personnel action, if that would violate any law, rule or regulation implementing or directly concerning merit system principles.

The Office of Special Counsel ( receives, investigates, and prosecutes allegations of prohibited personnel practices (PPPs), with an emphasis on protecting federal government whistleblowers. OSC seeks corrective action remedies (such as back pay and rein¬statement), 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 commission of a PPP is a violation of law that undermines the federal merit system and the rights of covered employees and applicants. In brief, PPPs can occur when covered personnel actions are taken by someone with personnel authority in relation to current or former federal employees in covered positions (or applicants for such positions) in covered agencies.

An actual personnel action (such as an appointment, promotion, reassignment, or suspension) may need to be involved for a prohibited personnel practice to occur. The OSC has jurisdiction over prohibited personnel