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Office of Staff Legal Assistance




Is there any cost for legal advice and assistance provided by OSLA?

No, OSLA services are free of charge. (See para. 8 of code of conduct PDF document).

OSLA hopes to increase its human resource base through donations to a Trust Fund PDF document which would permit the Office to hire legal officers and support staff to better serve those requiring assistance. OSLA is discussing with other actors including UN staff unions to see how additional support for the Office can be provided.

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Is OSLA obliged to take all cases it receives?

No. OSLA will assess the merits of a case, as well as matters of receivability, and may decide that it is not in the interest of the staff member, in the interest of justice or within the scope of OSLA’s legal obligations to bring a case or complaint. UN Dispute Tribunal Judgment No. UNDT/2010/025 of 8 February 2010 elaborates on OSLA’s obligations to provide counsel as follows:

"37. … While provisional staff rule 11.4(d) provides that 'a staff member shall have the assistance of counsel through the Office of Staff Legal Assistance if he or she so wishes', this provision must be read in conjunction with the General Assembly resolution on which it is based. In this respect, the Tribunal held in judgment UNDT/2009/093 … that General Assembly resolution 62/228 'must be interpreted as creating a right for staff members to request legal counsel from OSLA, which has an obligation to provide proper advice, including on the merits of the case. OSLA is therefore entitled to advise applicants not to file an application before the Tribunal and may therefore legally refuse to appoint counsel for an Applicant on the grounds that his application has little chance of success.' Interpreting the resolution as imposing an obligation on OSLA to provide legal assistance to all staff members requesting it, including those with obviously frivolous cases, would overload the Office and prejudice those applicants with a serious case."

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How can I as a staff member apply for OSLA legal assistance?

Please see detailed instructions under Practical Information – How to obtain OSLA legal advice and assistance.

Please note that individual OSLA legal officers in duty stations away from New York are not authorized to accept cases directly on behalf of OSLA, although they may be available for informal inquiries or to offer summary advice. Requests for assistance must be sought through OSLA New York.

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If OSLA cannot help me, what else can I do?

In the event OSLA Legal Officers are unable to provide assistance, staff members may:

  • bring their own claims to the Management Evaluation Unit (please note this link is only available from the internal UN network) and/or UNDT or other appellate entities.
  • pay outside counsel or obtain pro bono assistance from outside counsel.
  • obtain assistance from volunteer colleagues. The OSLA New York Office may be able to assist in identifying volunteer counsel.

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In what languages does OSLA provide legal assistance?

OSLA currently has the capability to service clients in English, French, Arabic and Spanish. Individual OSLA staff members have additional language skills.

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How seriously should I take deadlines when filing an appeal?

Very seriously. Mandatory time limits apply at every stage of the appeals process. The full responsibility for ensuring that time limits are met lies with the staff member who is appealing an administrative decision or who is charged with misconduct. To that end, it is important that requests for OSLA assistance are presented in sufficient time to allow OSLA to properly assess if and how it may assist in cases. Please refer to individual time limits for the type of submission you might pursue.

Missed time limits could mean that a matter will be determined to be time-barred, in which case it most likely will not be considered on the merits by the relevant Tribunal or other body, no matter how compelling the substantive case may be. In the case of the UN Dispute Tribunal, for instance, article 8, paragraph 3 of its Statute provides that it may suspend or waive the deadlines to file an application "only in exceptional cases". We therefore strongly suggest, in cases where time limits are imminent and where OSLA may not be able to immediately assist, that staff members make submissions, containing the basic elements of their case, on their own within the relevant time limits.

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Does OSLA assist in personal legal issues such as those related to housing, marital or visa matters?

No, OSLA provides assistance only in issues related to UN employment. For assistance in finding an attorney, you may wish to contact the local bar association (e.g. New York Bar Legal Referral Service).

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