U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
U.S. OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL RECEIVES EXPANDED AUTHORITY UNDER USERRA;
SPECIAL COUNSEL PLEDGES JOB PROTECTION FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES WHO SERVE
IN MILITARY RESERVE, GUARD
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 2/8/05***
CONTACT: CATHY DEEDS, 202-254-3600 or
WASHINGTON -- On February 8, 2005, the U.S.
Office of Special Counsel (OSC) will begin receiving and investigating certain
federal sector claims arising under the Uniformed Services Employment and
Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), the law that sets forth the
reemployment rights of those who are absent from employment due to military
service. USERRA also proscribes workplace discrimination on the basis of past,
present, or future military obligations.
Pursuant to a demonstration project established
by the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004 (VBIA), P.L. 108-454, signed by
President Bush on December 10, 2004, OSC, rather than the Department of Labor’s
Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), will have authority to
investigate USERRA claims brought by persons whose Social Security number ends
in an odd-numbered digit. Under the project, OSC will also receive and
investigate all federal sector USERRA claims containing a related prohibited
personnel practice allegation over which OSC has jurisdiction regardless of the
person’s Social Security number.
VETS will continue to investigate “even numbered”
claims that do not include a related prohibited personnel practice allegation.
Nor does the VBIA change the manner in which non-federal sector USERRA claims (i.e.,
those involving state and local governments and private employers) are received
and investigated by VETS.
OSC is administering the demonstration project, which
begins on February 8, 2005, and ends on September 30, 2007.
Special Counsel Scott Bloch concurs with Congress’s
sense that the federal government should be a model employer when carrying out
its responsibilities under USERRA. According to Bloch, Congress “wisely decided”
to establish the demonstration project, which endeavors to strengthen USERRA’s
enforcement in the federal sector through OSC’s expertise in investigating and
prosecuting prohibited personnel practices in the federal workplace. “OSC
proudly embraces its expanded role in enforcing USERRA for the benefit of all
those brave service members who have served, are serving, and may be called to
military service,” said Bloch.
When USERRA was passed in 1994, OSC’s role in
protecting federal employees and applicants for federal employment expanded.
Under USERRA, if VETS is unsuccessful in resolving a federal sector claim, the
claimant may request that VETS refer the matter to OSC. If the Special Counsel
believes there is merit to the claim, OSC will initiate a USERRA action before
the MSPB and appear on behalf of the claimant. OSC will continue to perform this
prosecutorial function under the demonstration project. The demonstration
project, however, gives OSC investigative authority over so-called
“odd-numbered” and “mixed” federal sector USERRA claims. The joining of
investigative and prosecutorial functions within OSC is intended to yield an
effective and timelier resolution of federal sector USERRA claims.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a
secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints and abuse of
authority. Its primary mission is to safeguard the merit system in federal
employment by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited
personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistleblowing. OSC also has
jurisdiction over the Hatch Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and
Reemployment Rights Act. For more information please visit our web site at
www.osc.gov or call 1-800-872-9855.