Special Counsel Struggles to Keep Up with Whistleblower Cases


The backlog of whistleblower and prohibited personnel practice (PPP) cases more than doubled at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel between 2011 and 2016, with the number of backlogged cases expected to increase with the 2017 and 2018 reports. In a report released by the Government Accountability Office, the sustained backlog puts the Office of Special Counsel’s ability to protect federal employees at risk. The backlog delays newer cases being filed with the office, delays obtaining favorable actions, remedying wrongdoings, and serves to chill the filing of whistleblower cases by employees who want to report wrongdoing at their place of employment.

Although the Office of Special Counsel has taken steps to try and reduce the backlog, such as expanding the number of employees reviewing cases and establishing a new unit to tackle hybrid cases of whistleblowing and retaliation, the backlog of cases has continued to increase. One major reason for the increased backlog is the increase in the number of cases the Office of Special Counsel has received. Between 2011 and 2016, there was a 66 percent increase in the number of whistleblower and PPP cases filed, likely attributed to the passage of the Whistleblower Protection Act in 2012. In addition, the Office of Special Counsel introduced educational programming in 2015 and 2016 to inform employees about their rights under the Whistleblower Act, leading to more cases being filed with the office.

An additional cause of backlog with the Office of Special Counsel is the misfiling of PPP cases as whistleblower cases. PPP cases involve issues of discrimination, nepotism, coercive behavior, and other negative behaviors in the workplace, and currently the office has two different forms for PPP and whistleblower filings. The current procedure requires the employee reviewing the case to look over the facts, close it as a whistleblower case, and notify another unit to open it as a PPP case. The Office is currently working to create a single form that would cut some of the bureaucratic tape and prevent mistaken filings.

The time to process whistleblower and PPP cases has also increased at the Office of Special Counsel, with the average time increasing to 29 days for a whistleblower case and 97 days for a PPP filing. This is because the Office often refers other agencies to handle the investigation, who then request extensions, which are almost always approved by the Office. Unfortunately, this is not communicated to the employees filing the cases, many of whom are receiving retaliatory treatment by their employers the entire time. In the interim, the employee may choose to leave their position, making the handling of the case even more difficult. Because of the backlog in cases with the Office of Special Counsel, you need an experienced attorney who understands how to navigate the system of whistleblower and PPP cases to help expedite your claims as quickly as possible.

Call Our Office Now

If you wish to file a whistleblower or PPP case The Vaughn Law Firm in Decatur is here to help. Call the office or contact us today to schedule a free consultation of your case.