Have you have been denied the opportunity to apply for employment or promotion within the federal government or have had your application denied? You might have been illegally prevented from competing in employment if an agency official engaged in one or more of the prohibited personnel practices outlined below.
What Are Prohibited Personnel Practices?
A prohibited personnel practice includes any action in the employment context that has been banned for violating the federal merit system. Prohibited personnel practices normally involve some form of discrimination, retaliation, improper hiring or personnel decision practices, or failure to adhere to express laws, rules, and regulations governing the merit system.
Common Examples of Prohibited Personnel Practices
Federal laws and regulations have expressly identified 14 prohibited personnel practices. These are:
- Discrimination – Agency officials may not discriminate against an employee or applicant on the basis of that person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, marital status, political affiliation, or disability or handicap.
- Considering an improper recommendation – Officials may not request or consider recommendations that are based on political connections. Appropriate recommendations can only be based on personal knowledge of an employee or applicant.
- Coercing political activity – Officials may not coerce employees or applicants to engage in political activity or retaliate against an employee for refusing to do so.
- Obstructing competition for employment – Officials cannot intentionally deceive or obstruct an application for competing for a job, such as falsely rating an employee to disqualify them from a promotion or another position.
- Influencing withdrawal from competition for employment – Officials also cannot influence or persuade an applicant to withdraw from competition for employment, either to improve or impair the prospect of any other applicant.
- Providing unauthorized advantages – Officials must not provide unauthorized advantages to improve or impair the employment prospects of any applicant.
- Nepotism – Federal government employees may not hire, promote, or advocate for the hiring or promotion of any relative, or confer or pursue a benefit for any relative already employed.
- Retaliation – Officials may not retaliate against an employee who files a complaint/grievance/appeal, testifies on behalf of or helps someone who files a complaint, cooperates with the Office of Special Counsel or an Inspector General, or refuses to follow a directive that would require the employee to violate a law, rule, or regulation.
- Whistleblower retaliation – Officials may not take adverse employment actions against any employee who engages in a whistleblowing activity, which involves reporting violations of law or regulation, gross mismanagement or waste of funds, abuse of authority, or specific and substantial danger to public health and safety.
- Discrimination based on irrelevant conduct – Officials may not discriminate against an employee based on conduct that does not negatively impact the employee’s job performance.
- Violating veterans’ preference requirements – Officials cannot take any employment action that they know would violate a veterans’ preference requirement.
- Violating merit system rules – Under this “catchall” provision, officials may not act or fail to act if doing so violates laws, rules, and regulations implementing merit system principles.
- Imposing NDAs that prohibit whistleblowing – Officials cannot use non-disclosure agreements that fail to specifically inform employees of their rights and obligations under whistleblower laws.
- Accessing medical records for an improper purpose – Officials may not access an employee’s or applicant’s medical records for the purpose of committing another prohibited personnel practice.
What Are Your Legal Options If You’ve Been the Victim of Prohibited Personnel Practices?
If you have been prevented from competing for federal employment due to a prohibited personnel practice, you are entitled to file a complaint with one of the federal agencies that review claims of prohibited personnel practices, including the Office of Special Counsel, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the Department of Labor.
Contact Us for Help
If you believe that you have been prevented from fairly competing for federal employment in violation of the federal merit system due to prohibited personnel practices, reach out to The Vaughn Law Firm today for a confidential case review. Our federal employment attorneys in Decatur, GA and Washington, DC can help you understand your legal options for demanding accountability and compensation for the violation of your rights.