United States Office of Special Counsel
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The United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is a permanent independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency whose basic legislative authority comes from four federal statutes, the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). OSC's primary mission is the safeguarding of the merit system in federal employment by protecting employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices (PPPs), especially reprisal for "whistleblowing." The agency also operates a secure channel for federal whistleblower disclosures of violations of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; and substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. In addition, OSC issues advice on the Hatch Act and enforces its restrictions on partisan political activity by government employees. Finally, OSC protects the civilian employment and reemployment rights of military service members under USERRA. OSC has around 120 staff, and the Special Counsel is an ex officio member of Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), an association of Inspectors General charged with the regulation of good governance within the federal government.
Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 1214, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has jurisdiction over most prohibited personnel practice (PPP) complaints brought by executive branch employees, former employees, and applicants for employment (hereinafter simply "employee" or "employees"). When a PPP complaint is submitted, OSC, the agency examines the allegations. If OSC finds sufficient evidence to prove a violation, it may seek corrective action, disciplinary action, or both.
By statute, federal employees may not be retaliated against when they disclose information that they reasonably believe evidences the following types of wrongdoing: a violation of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; a gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.〔Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense, Statement of Mr. Thomas F. Gimble Acting Inspector General Department of Defense before the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations House Committee on Government Reform on National Security Whistleblower Protection (Feb. 14, 2006) at 5.〕 The Special Counsel is authorized to receive such disclosures of wrongdoing, except that OSC lacks jurisdiction over PPPs committed against employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and certain other intelligence agencies found at 5 U.S.C. §2302(a)(2)(C)(ii).
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