OSC Seal

 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 201
 Washington, D.C. 20036-4505


(202) 653-7984               

    Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced the settlement of a prohibited personnel practice complaint filed by a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) employee of the Department of Justice. The complainant, an Assistant Special Agent in Charge, alleged that DEA officials retaliated against him because they perceived him to be the whistleblower who had reported the Special Agent in Charge’s misuse of a government vehicle to the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). 

    After OPR conducted its investigation, it disciplined the Special Agent in Charge – the complainant’s second-line supervisor – with a thirty-one day suspension. Two months later, various personnel actions were taken against the complainant. They included two unsatisfactory performance ratings, a Suitability Review Protocol examination and reassignment into a different unit. 

    OSC investigated the personnel actions and concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe that they violated the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) and 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(9). The WPA makes it unlawful for an agency to take a personnel action against an employee because they perceive the employee to be a whistleblower. Section 2302(b)(9) of Title 5 makes it unlawful for an agency to take a personnel action against an employee because the employee disclosed information to the Inspector General, or an agency’s equivalent office, such as OPR. 

    When OSC advised DEA of its findings, DEA agreed to cooperate in settling the complaint. Under the settlement, without admitting liability, DEA raised the complainant’s two performance ratings to outstanding, restored eight days of leave, expunged all personnel records regarding the unsatisfactory ratings and the suitability review, and issued a memorandum to all managers clarifying that authorized absences are not to be included in the DEA interim rating formula. DEA also agreed to provide OSC training on the Whistleblower Protection Act to DEA staff in the division where the prohibited personnel practice complaint originated. The complainant’s first and second-line supervisors, who were responsible for the adverse personnel actions, have resigned from DEA.

    The Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging the commission of prohibited personnel practices at federal agencies. In cases where an OSC investigation reveals reasonable grounds to believe a prohibited personnel practice has been committed, and an agency declines to voluntarily provide relief to a complainant, OSC will prosecute a petition for corrective action before the Merit Systems Protection Board. In many cases, such as this one, OSC obtains relief for complaining parties through settlement, before it makes a formal finding regarding the merits of the complaint.