About the Merit Systems Protection Board
The Office of Special Counsel
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has been established by federal law to help protect the federal merit system. Its missions and responsibilities often intersect with the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) which is also charged with protecting the federal merit system. OSC is headed by the Special Counsel who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Additionally, OSC employs more than 100 people who are charged with investigating and resolving matters before OSC. OSC is headquartered in Washington D.C. and has field offices in the Dallas, San Francisco, and Detroit areas.
How the OSC Protects Federal Employees
Whistleblowers, veterans, and employees who are involved in political activity are among those protected by the Office of Special Counsel. In some cases OSC acts as a prosecutor by bringing a case before the MSPB, and in other cases OSC can resolve the matter on its own.
Whistleblowers, for example, can contact the OSC Disclosure Unit to report: (a) a violation of law, rule or regulation, (b) gross mismanagement and waste of funds, (c) abuse of authority, or (d) a substantial danger to public health or safety. A federal employee must make the report in writing and the OSC Disclosure Unit attorneys will evaluate the allegations in order to determine if there is a substantial likelihood that they are true. If that substantial likelihood of truth exists, then the matter will be referred to the head of the agency where the alleged wrongdoing took place. The OSC may also investigate and prosecute the claims of retaliation against whistleblowers by bringing an action before the MSPB for damages. OSC can negotiate with the agency on behalf of the whistleblower to settle a case for damages before a formal MSPB appeal or mediation session.
Political Actions of Employees
OSC is responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act specifies what types of political activities federal employees may be involved in while they are government employees. If an individual employee has questions about whether s/he may engage in certain political activity, then OSC can issue an advisory opinion about whether the proposed activity is consistent with the Hatch Act. The OSC may also prosecute alleged Hatch Act violations before the MSPB.
Veterans have certain rights to employment pursuant to the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). If those rights are violated by a federal agency then a veteran has the right to appeal the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS) or the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). If the DOL-VETS does not resolve the issue and OSC believes that the veteran has a strong case, then OSC can represent the veteran in an appeal to the MSPB.
Other employees, in addition to the ones described above,
may also contact the OSC who may be able to help them in
limited circumstances. Many federal employees are involved in
situations that are not under OSC jurisdiction, however, and
those employees should seek the representation and expertise of
private employment lawyers for assistance with their