Prohibited Personnel Practices

Prohibited personnel practices are those things a Federal employee with personnel authority may not do. A Federal employee has personnel authority if they can take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any personnel action. This includes appointments, promotions, discipline, details, transfers, reassignments, reinstatements, or any decisions concerning pay, benefits, training, and any decision to order psychiatric testing or examination, . Recent changes to the law were made to protect Department of Defense veterans. A personnel action now also includes any significant change in duties, responsibilities, or working conditions which is inconsistent with the employees salary or grade. People with personnel authority -- managers and supervisors - are charged with avoiding prohibited personnel practices.


  1. Don't DISCRIMINATE on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicapping condition, marital status, or political affiliation.
  2. Don't SOLICIT or CONSIDER any personnel recommendation or statement not based on personal knowledge or records of performance, ability, aptitude, general qualifications, character, loyalty, or suitability.
  3. Don't COERCE an employee's political activity.
  4. Don't DECEIVE or OBSTRUCT any person with respect to such person's right to compete for employment.
  5. Don't INFLUENCE a person to withdraw from competition for the purpose of improving or injuring the prospects of another person for employment.
  6. Don't GRANT any preference or advantage not authorized by law, regulation, or rule to any [employee or applicant for the purpose of improving or injuring the prospects of another person for employment].
  7. Don't EMPLOY or ADVOCATE a relative.
  8. Don't RETALIATE against a Whistleblower, whether an employee or an applicant.
  9. Don't RETALIATE against employees or applicants who exercise their appeal rights, testify, or cooperate with an Inspector General or the Special Counsel, or refuse to break the law.
  10. Don't DISCRIMINATE based on actions not adversely affecting performance.
  11. Don't VIOLATE any law, rule, or regulation implementing or directly concerning the merit principles.
  12. Don't VIOLATE Veteran's Preference by taking or failure to take a personnel action. (National Defense Authorization Act for FY97)

Avoiding prohibited personnel practices will not guarantee that you will never have to defend a decision or action, but it will give you a firm basis from which to start. You should remain conscious of:
  • the merit system principles and prohibited personnel practices;
  • the problems you can cause yourself by not keeping the legal requirements in mind.

  • Content last reviewed: 1/7/2005-SKH