The Top Ten Prohibited Personnel Practices

Office – Govt

Prohibited personnel practices (PPPs) are activities banned in the federal workplace. These actions violate the merit system through some type of improper hiring practices, employment discrimination, retaliation, or failure to follow the rules, regulations, or laws directly concerning the merit system principles.

The top ten PPPs in federal employment are:


Job applicants and employees cannot be discriminated against by an agency official based on disability, race, age, sex, marital status, religion, political affiliation, color, or national origin.

Considering Inappropriate Recommendations

Agency officials are prohibited from considering or requesting recommendations regarding an applicant or employee unless the recommendation is based on personal knowledge of the employee or the records of the recommender. That means recommending someone as a candidate to be hired or for promotion at a federal job isn’t allowed unless the person making the recommendation knows about the employee or applicant’s abilities related to the position. 

Coercin​​​​​g Political Activity

 Agency officials can’t coerce any person’s political activity or retaliate against them for refusing to participate in the activity. This PPP aims to prevent partisan politics from entering the federal workplace. 

Obstructing Competition

An agency official is prohibited from intentionally deceiving or willfully obstructing someone’s right to compete for employment. Simply failing to select an applicant isn’t a violation of federal law. 

Influencing Withdrawal from Competition

An agency official can’t attempt to persuade an applicant to withdraw their name from job consideration. A violation occurs only if the persuasion or influence was meant to hurt or help someone else’s employment prospects.

However, an agency official isn’t barred from counseling a job applicant to withdraw for a legitimate reason, such as the availability of a better position or not being qualified for the specific job. 

Granting Unauthorized Advantage

Agency officials can’t give unauthorized advantage to harm or improve any person’s employment prospects. That means officials are prohibited from providing a job applicant with a wrongful advantage to hurt someone else’s chance of getting the same job. 


Federal government employees can’t participate in nepotism. That means they can’t promote or hire relatives or convince someone to hire or promote their relatives.

Nepotism involves more than hiring practices. It also includes other advantages and benefits of employment, such as completing a relative’s annual performance rating.

Whistleblower Retaliation

Retaliating against an employee for whistleblowing is illegal. An agency official isn’t allowed to threaten to take, take, or fail to take a personnel action because an employee reported or filed a complaint about unlawful activity in the workplace. 

Other Retaliation

Another PPP involves other forms of retaliation against an employee for specific actions, such as:

  • Disclosing information to or cooperating with the Special Counsel or an Inspector General
  • Filing a grievance, appeal, or complaint
  • Testifying for or helping someone with an employment issue
  • Refusing to obey an order requiring a violation of a rule, regulation, or law

 Other Discrimination

An agency official can’t discriminate against an employee in the federal workplace due to conduct that doesn’t affect that person’s job performance. That means the official isn’t allowed to penalize their employee if the actions don’t adversely affect their performance or ability to perform their job. This PPP includes gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.

Protect Your Rights with a Dedicated Employment Lawyer

Filing a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) can be complicated without an experienced legal team. The Vaughn Law Firm understands how scary it can be to file a complaint against your employer for mistreating you. Let us help you fight for the justice you deserve.

If you want to file a complaint with the OSC for discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, or another PPP your employer engaged in, call us at 1-877-615-9495 for a free consultation in Decatur, GA, or Washington, DC, today.