What Is the Office of Special Counsel, and What Does It Do?
The United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC) handles reports of wrongdoings within the federal government’s executive branch from employees, federal employees, and employment applicants. In other words, the OSC helps whistleblowers in their claims.
The office protects federal employees from prohibited personnel practices by employers, including unlawful hiring practices and retaliation against whistleblowers. It also provides a secure method of disclosing and resolving federal agency misconduct.
How to Report Misconduct within the Federal Government
A current or former federal employee or an applicant can report a range of wrongdoings to the OSC, such as:
- Gross mismanagement
- Abuse of authority
- Violation of a rule, law, or regulation
- Specific and substantial danger to public safety or health
- Gross waste of funds
Multiple sources are available for disclosing the misconduct, including:
- The OSC
- Inspector General
- A supervisor or another person in management
A whistleblower reporting activity that involves classified national security information or other information protected from public release under federal law must use a confidential channel. Disclosing the wrongdoings to Congress, the OSC, or the attorney general is necessary for protection from adverse personnel actions.
Confidentiality in Making a Disclosure
Most inspectors general have a hotline available so employees can report employer misconduct confidentially. The law prohibits the inspector general from disclosing the whistleblower’s identity unless compelled by the court or the inspector general determines disclosure isn’t avoidable.
The OSC won’t share an employee’s identity without their consent. However, the office could disclose an employee’s identity if it determines it’s necessary due to an imminent violation of a criminal law or imminent danger to public safety or health.
How the OSC Handles Disclosures
The OSC will evaluate the information it receives regarding an employer’s wrongdoing and interview the whistleblowing employee. The office will also determine whether part or all of the employee’s allegations are substantial, whether it can prove misconduct, and whether the wrongdoing involves:
- Gross mismanagement;
- Substantial and specific danger to public health and safety;
- Gross waste of funds;
- Violation of law, regulation, or rule; or
- Abuse of authority.
If the allegations meet all the standards, the OSC will require the agency to investigate the employer’s actions and submit its findings. Additionally, the whistleblower can comment on the agency’s report
The President and congressional oversight committees will receive those comments and any recommendations or comments by the OSC.
Whistleblower Protections Against Retaliation
The Whistleblower Protection Program prohibits employers from pursuing retaliatory action against employees who report wrongdoing. Retaliatory actions can include:
- Poor performance review
If you believe your employer retaliated against you for making a disclosure to the OSC, you can pursue action, such as:
- Filing a union grievance
- Filing a complaint with the OSC
- Filing an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board
Remedies for Whistleblowers Facing Retaliatory Action
If your employer retaliates against you and you decide to pursue action against them, it is possible to receive some sort of relief. Common types of remedies in retaliation cases include:
- Back pay
- Job restoration
- Monetary awards for incurred expenses and attorneys’ fees
- Reasonable and foreseeable consequential damages, such as attorneys’ fees, compensatory damages, and medical costs
- Reversal of a suspension or other adverse action
At The Vaughn Law Firm, our dedicated and trusted employment law attorneys represent clients in Decatur, GA, and Washington, D.C. We protect the rights of federal employees facing unfair retaliatory actions and mistreatment by their employers. When you hire us, we will provide the legal representation you need to seek justice for your suffering.
If you reported employer misconduct and you received a demotion, termination, or other action that you believe was a form of retaliation against you, call The Vaughn Law Firm at 877-615-9495 today for your free consultation.