THE OFFICE OF STAFF LEGAL ASSISTANCE
The Office of Staff Legal Assistance was established in 2009 to provide legal advice and representation to United Nations staff members (and former staff or affected dependents) in respect of their employment with the UN. We have lawyers based in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Beirut, but we serve United Nations staff wherever they are, the world over.
- Are you a victim of harassment, abuse of authority or discrimination?
- Are you facing disciplinary charges?
- Have you been denied contract renewal?
- Do you have questions about your benefits and entitlements?
- Are you concerned about a promotion exercise?
- Do you need legal representation or advice with regard to your UN employment?
If so, you need OSLA.
We provide independent, professional, and confidential legal advice and representation.
If you feel that your contract of employment or terms of appointment have been breached, we can advise you on the way forward. You can approach us at any stage of a dispute, or even in anticipation of a dispute. All consultations are confidential.
We provide advice on the UN Staff Rules and Regulations and other Administrative issuances; entitlements and benefits; harassment and abuse of authority, investigations and disciplinary processes; assignment and recruitment; as well as separation from service and pension matters. And if you just have general questions about your legal rights or responsibilities within the UN, we can help.
Established as part of the reform of the internal justice system of the United Nations, we also provide assistance with and formal representation in cases before the United Nations Dispute and Appeals Tribunals, and with the preparation of requests for Management Evaluation under Staff Rule 11.2. Formal representation includes preparing written submissions to the MEU or Tribunals and oral advocacy before the Tribunals, as necessary. Trials at the UNDT level include written and oral submissions (speeches and argumentation) and examination and cross-examination of witnesses.
OSLA can help in other contexts as well. We help negotiate informal resolution of a dispute, either with or without the involvement of the Ombudsman’s office. Around 60% of our work results in informal resolution. If in doubt whether we can help you or not, please get in touch!
All our legal officers are qualified attorneys, who abide by the ethical codes of the jurisdictions in which they qualified. Additionally, OSLA has its own Code of Conduct and since January 2017 OSLA lawyers are also bound by the Code of Conduct for Legal Representatives and Litigants in Person, applicable to the UNDT and UNAT.
“OSLA provided me with the highest level of service
at a very low point in my professional life”
Staff member, New York, USA (2017)
If you think we might be able to assist you, please complete our Request for OSLA assistance and Consent forms which are available at www.un.org/en/oaj/legalassist/forms.shtml and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call us on +1 212 963 3957 (New York) or +254 20 762 6734, depending on your time-zone.
VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS TO OSLA – WHY OPT IN?
OSLA exists to provide legal advice and representation to around 75,000 staff (and former staff) worldwide.
Since it was established in 2009, OSLA has received more than 9000 requests for legal assistance. In 2016, OSLA worked on over 2000, so the workload is growing.
OSLA’s regular budget staffing consists of seven lawyers and three legal assistants, with one lawyer working in each of Addis Ababa, Beirut, Geneva and Nairobi and a small team in New York. In 2011 the team was augmented by the addition of another lawyer funded from the Peacekeeping Support Account, which shored up the very busy Nairobi office.
In 2013, the General Assembly established, on an experimental basis, the Voluntary Supplemental Funding Mechanism through which staff members could contribute to the additional resources OSLA requires, through a small monthly payroll deduction, amounting to 0.05% of net base salary (excluding post adjustment and other allowances). This Mechanism has allowed OSLA to add more lawyers and a legal assistant in order to enhance its service to staff.
With staff contributions, we have been able to increase our team on a temporary basis by the addition of 3 higher-level legal officer posts, located in Nairobi, Geneva, and New York. We have also been able to fund a legal assistant post in Nairobi, so that staff around the world can more easily contact OSLA when the New York office is closed. Continued or increasing contributions will help ensure these additional posts can be maintained to assist staff for the long term.
We urge all staff members to contribute to the Mechanism, which provides us with the additional funding we need to be able to help the largest possible group of staff members in need of advice and assistance. Contribute – for yourself and for your colleagues!
“I am extremely pleased with OSLA […] All my questions and concerns were answered in a timely manner and I was briefed on each and every step throughout the process. We, as UN staff, are privileged to have OSLA. I encourage all colleagues to approach OSLA and if you are not voluntary contributing, please consider doing so.“
Staff member, Vienna, Austria, 2017
Voluntary Contributions – FAQs
How much does it cost?
Staff who contribute have 0.5% of their monthly net salary – which ranges from a few cents to a few dollars a month. The monthly cost of contributions is less than a cup of coffee in most duty stations!
Why should I contribute?
Your voluntary contribution will help OSLA to more effectively assist staff. Staff members greatly benefit from legal assistance and representation before the UN Tribunals. Outcomes before the UNDT are more likely to be successful with OSLA representation. With more resources, OSLA can do better still.
Why shouldn’t I just hire a lawyer when I need one?
You can. However, outside lawyers are likely to charge professional fees that can run to thousands of dollars – far more than your voluntary contributions.
I’m already paying staff union dues. Why should I pay for this? Can’t I get legal insurance?
OSLA and the Staff Unions share the goal of defending staff rights but through different means. Whereas the Staff Unions lobby for changes in policy, OSLA was specifically established to provide staff with a team of specialist lawyers to help them through the internal justice system.
OSLA is not aware of any legal insurance scheme that would cover the work OSLA does at all stages of a dispute or disciplinary process. Even if such a scheme did exist, the premiums payable would likely be much more costly than the monthly voluntary contribution to OSLA.
If I don’t contribute, can I still use OSLA’s services?
Yes, OSLA is available to assist all UN staff, whether they contribute to the voluntary mechanism or not.
Why should I pay if I have access to OSLA’s services anyway?
OSLA relies on your support to improve its services – for you and your colleagues!