OSLA FAQs

Photo of OSLA Legal Officer pointing to document.
OSLA lawyer giving advice.

1. How is OSLA’s role different from the Ombudsman? The Staff Unions? The Ethics Office?

2. Is the information I provide kept confidential?

3. Are there deadlines for challenging a decision or obtaining benefits?

4. Do I have to pay to obtain legal assistance from OSLA?

5. Why is there a salary deduction for OSLA on my payslip, and why shouldn’t I opt out?

6. I opted out of payroll deductions. Can I still get legal assistance from OSLA?

7. Is OSLA obliged to assist in every case?

8. OSLA lawyers are UN staff members. How can they be truly independent?

9. In what languages does OSLA provide assistance?

10. There is an OSLA office in my duty station. Can I go there for advice or do I have to fill in the online form?

11. There is no OSLA office in my duty station. How can a Legal Officer properly represent me?

12. I filled in the online Request for Assistance form. How long do I have to wait to receive a response from OSLA?

13. I have a dispute with my landlord. Can OSLA assist me?

14. OSLA declined to assist me. What can I do now?

1. How is OSLA’s role different from the Ombudsman? The Staff Unions? The Ethics Office?

OSLA’s role is to provide legal advice and representation to staff in relation to the Organization’s formal internal justice system. OSLA is the only office in the UN system to provide this service. It is independent and is not affiliated with the Staff Unions, Ombudsman or the other UN offices involved in resolving employment disputes. While OSLA may deal with, and speak to, other offices in relation to any particular case, it will only do so with a client’s prior consent. If you feel that any of the Ombudsman, the Ethics Office, the Staff Union, and OSLA may be able to help you, you may approach any or all of these offices with your concerns, and you may do so simultaneously.

2. Is the information I provide kept confidential?

Any correspondence with, or information that you provide to OSLA remains strictly confidential. For example, if in the course of a consultation with OSLA you disclose information which might indicate that you have committed misconduct, OSLA’s operational independence means that we are not compelled to report this to the Organisation as other UN staff are required to do. The rules governing lawyer-client privilege protect OSLA legal officers and clients in this regard.

3. Are there deadlines for challenging a decision or obtaining benefits?

Please note that most matters under the United Nations system of administration of justice involve strict time limits to make formal submissions, e.g., Requests for Management Evaluation, or applications to the UN Dispute Tribunal. 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. It is therefore 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. OSLA therefore strongly suggests, 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.

4. Do I have to pay to obtain legal assistance from OSLA?

No. OSLA does not charge a fee for its services.

5. Why is there a salary deduction for OSLA on my payslip, and why shouldn’t I opt out?

In 2013 the General Assembly requested the implementation of a Voluntary Supplemental Funding Mechanism to provide additional urgently required resources for OSLA. As a result of the small monthly contribution of 0.05% of net base salary deducted on a voluntary basis from staff, OSLA has been able to recruit additional legal officers and is now much better able to provide legal assistance to staff globally. With a bigger team of lawyers around the world OSLA is able to devote more time to each request for assistance and to provide more thorough advice and representation as necessary.

6. I opted out of payroll deductions. Can I still get legal assistance from OSLA?

Yes. OSLA is accessible to all staff, whether or not they contribute to the Voluntary Supplemental Funding Mechanism.

7. Is OSLA obliged to assist in every case?

Please see Who OSLA Helps. If you fall within the class of persons OSLA can help, you have a right to make a request for assistance, but OSLA is not obliged to provide representation beyond providing initial advice. OSLA will consider all Requests for Assistance, and assess whether there is any way in which it can help. This will include a thorough assessment of the merits, and OSLA may then decide that in a particular case there is no reasonable prospect of success in pursuing any form of challenge. In such instances OSLA may decline assistance, although it will always consider informal resolution options before doing so. The Dispute Tribunal has confirmed OSLA’s right to refuse assistance on the grounds that a staff member has little chance of success. See UNDT/2010/025 at paragraph 37, for further detail. [Insert link to DT judgment in PDF form – will provide link]

8. OSLA lawyers are UN staff members. How can they be truly independent?

All OSLA lawyers are qualified to practice law in their national jurisdictions. Their professional duties to their clients arise from their status as professionals in their national jurisdictions quite apart from their role as UN staff members. These duties include always acting in a client’s best interests, and maintaining client confidentiality. OSLA lawyers are subject to an internal Code of Conduct as well as the Code of conduct for legal representatives and litigants in person appearing before the Tribunals. These codes require OSLA lawyers to act in a client’s best interests at all times and to maintain client confidentiality. The Secretary-General has repeatedly stressed the operational independence of OSLA.

9. In what languages does OSLA provide assistance?

OSLA is presently able to provide assistance in English, French, and Arabic. Individual OSLA lawyers may also have additional language skills.

10. There is an OSLA office in my duty station. Can I go there for advice or do I have to fill in the online form?

All potential clients are asked to complete a Request for Assistance form or in urgent cases to contact osla@un.org or to telephone us on +1 212 963 3957 / +254 20 762 6734, even if they are near an OSLA office. OSLA Legal Officers are very busy and the centralised Request intake system means that your Request will be considered in the shortest time possible. This may mean that it is referred to a Legal Officer in another duty station.

11. There is no OSLA office in my duty station. How can a Legal Officer properly represent me?

Many of OSLA’S clients work in duty stations where there is no OSLA legal office. Our Legal Officers will be in touch with you by phone, email, Skype or other online communication tools. You may need to ‘appear’ at the Tribunal by telephone or video-conference. Your Legal Officer will explain how this works and ensure that the process works smoothly. OSLA Legal Officers are from time to time able to travel to duty stations where there they have no permanent presence, to provide temporary Clinics which you can attend for legal advice.

12. I filled in the online Request for Assistance form. How long do I have to wait to receive a response from OSLA?

The OSLA inbox is manned on all working days. You should receive confirmation of receipt of your Request for Assistance within 24 hours (excluding weekends and holidays), and you will normally receive a response from a Legal Officer within 7 working days. If you submitted a Request for Assistance to OSLA but have not received a response within these timelines, please call +1 212 963 3957 (UTC -5) or +254 20 762 6734 (UTC +3).

13. I have a dispute with my landlord. Can OSLA assist me?

OSLA does not provide advice about legal matters governed by national jurisdictions, such as divorce, disputes over sale of goods, and disputes with landlords. OSLA only assists in issues related to employment by the UN. Occasionally these things may overlap, so if you are unsure whether a matter falls within our remit, please contact us to find out.

14. OSLA declined to assist me. What can I do now?

If OSLA has declined assistance, you may bring your own Request for Management Evaluation directly to the Management Evaluation Unit or equivalent review body within your employing organisation, and/or the UNDT or other appellate entities . You can also be represented by another staff member or former staff member before the UNDT or UNAT. You may also approach outside counsel or obtain pro bono assistance from outside counsel who are willing to assist.