What are "prohibited personnel practices"?
There are fourteen prohibited personnel practices, including reprisal for whistleblowing, which are defined by law at § 2302(b) of title 5 of the United States Code (U.S.C.). A personnel action" (defined in 5 U.S.C. § 2302(a)(2(A) to include appointments, promotions, reassignments, disciplinary actions, and other personnel matters) may need to be involved for a prohibited personnel practice to occur. Generally stated, § 2302(b) provides that a federal employee who has authority over personnel decisions may not:
- discriminate against an employee or applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicapping condition, marital status, or political affiliation;
- request or consider employment recommendations based on factors other than personal knowledge or records of job-related abilities or characteristics;
- coerce the political activity of any person;
- deceive or willfully obstruct anyone from competing for employment;
- influence anyone to withdraw from competition in an effort to improve or injure the employment prospects of any person;
- give an unauthorized preference or advantage to anyone so as to improve or injure the employment prospects of any particular employee or applicant;
- engage in nepotism (i.e., hire, promote, or advocate the hiring or promotion of relatives);
- engage in reprisal for whistleblowing - generally, a person with personnel authority cannot take or fail to take a personnel action with respect to an employee or applicant because of a disclosure of information by the employee or applicant that he or she reasonably believes evidences a violation of a law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. The prohibition does not apply, however, if the disclosure is barred by law or is specifically required by Executive Order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs, except when such a disclosure is made to the Special Counsel, the Inspector General, or a comparable agency official.
- take or fail to take a personnel action against an employee or applicant for exercising an appeal, complaint, or grievance right; testifying for or assisting another in exercising such a right; cooperating with or disclosing information to the Special Counsel or to an Inspector General; or refusing to obey an order that would require the individual to violate a law;
- discriminate based on personal conduct which is not job-related and does not adversely affect the on-the-job performance of an employee, applicant, or others;
- take or fail to take, recommend, or approve a personnel action if taking or failing to take such an action would violate a veterans' preference requirement; or
- take or fail to take a personnel action, if taking or failing to take the action would violate any law, rule or regulation implementing or directly concerning merit system principles at 5 U.S.C. § 2301.
- implement or enforce any nondisclosure policy, form, or agreement, if such policy, form, or agreement does not contain the following statement: "These provisions are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this agreement and are controlling."
- access the medical record of another employee or an applicant for employment as a part of, or otherwise in furtherance of, any conduct described in paragraphs (1) through (13).