Prohibited Personnel Practices

Nearly every company or organization has a personnel department. These individuals are responsible for hiring and firing employees within the company. Members of the personnel department hold privileged information about all employees, often more than those at the management level. Even though this department appears to run on its own, it is not above the law. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) lists a number of prohibited personnel practices.

Discrimination is against the law

It is against the law to discriminate against a job applicant. When recruiting for a job, whether during a phone conversation or in person, personnel interviewers are not allowed to discriminate based on the following criteria:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Marital status
  • Religion
  • Political affiliation
  • Handicaps

Political pressure is not allowed

Management within a company is prohibited from using gentle or forceful persuasion to encourage an employee to change his political views. Management is also not allowed to challenge an employee on a political subject or draw him into a debate.

Nonbiased interviews

Personnel interviewers cannot favor a job application on the basis of nonwork related abilities or personal knowledge of the candidate. Friends and family cannot be automatically qualified for the job based upon unprofessional qualifications. If a family member or friend is being considered for a position, the personnel interviewer should be asked to step aside to avoid a conflict of interest.

Resume manipulation

Personnel departments are prohibited from discouraging someone from applying for a job or standing in their way by willfully withholding or destroying a resume. They cannot:

  • Discourage a job candidate, coaxing him to withdraw an application in order to improve the prospects of another job applicant
  • Give preference to a particular job applicant or perform any type of action to improve that person's chances
  • Give preference to family members and friends

After-hours activities

Companies are not allowed to discriminate or punish an employee for something done after hours. If someone had a little too much to drink or got into a fight outside the office, this individual's employer cannot retaliate. In the case that an employee behaves in an inappropriate manner that involves the company or causes actions that reflect badly on its reputation, then the employee can be reprimanded.


When an employee leaks information, it is against the law for the company to silence that employee. If an employee believes that the company where he or she works is involved in something illegal, such as money laundering, abusing authority or using practices that endanger the health of employees, he or she has every right to "blow the whistle."

Merit principles

It is against the law for personnel to violate the Law of Merit Principles. These principles include:

  • Treat employees fairly.
  • Reward employees for excellent work.
  • Provide equal pay for equal work.
  • Train and educate employees for career advancement.
  • Protect employees from religious and political influences.

Prohibited personnel practices also include ignoring confidentiality regarding any employee's personal details or salary with other staff members. In the event that an employee approaches the personnel department with a complaint or problem, employees in the department are not allowed to share that information with anyone else. Should an employee find out that information has been shared, he or she has every right to report that violation and take legal steps if necessary.

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