Laws and Regulations
Is the Government Regulating You Unfairly? - Contact an Ombudsman
Small business owners who feel they have been subject to unfair or excessive regulatory enforcement by a government agency can turn to an Ombudsman for help. An Ombudsman is an impartial government official charged with representing the interests of the public by addressing complaints reported by citizens, including business owners.
What Does an Ombudsman Do?
An Ombudsman is a neutral party that helps resolve disputes between citizens and the government. An Ombudsman has broad powers to investigate an agency's actions and make recommendations, but it is does not have legal authority to make an agency follow its recommendations. In addition, an Ombudsman does not provide legal services for the citizen or the government.
How Are Complaints Handled?
The Ombudsman's work starts with a compliant. If you feel your business is being regulated unfairly, contact an Ombudsman office to file a complaint. Typical complaints from business owners include repetitive audits or investigations, excessive fines, penalties, threats, and retaliation.
Ombudsman staff will review your complaint with you; discuss your rights, options and any programs that might exist to resolve the problem. If your dispute cannot be resolved through existing channels, the Ombudsman will assign an investigator. On your behalf, the investigator will discuss your case with agency officials. Generally, your identity is kept confidential when discussing your case with government officials; however, depending on the nature of your complaint, it may be necessary for an investigator to reveal your identity. Ask Ombudsman staff to explain confidentiality options before beginning an investigation.
If the investigator finds the agency has done something wrong, the Ombudsman will recommend corrective action be taken by the agency. Agencies are not required to follow the Ombudsman's recommendations, but they often do.
How Do I Find an Ombudsman?
Ombudsmen exist at all levels of federal, state and local governments. Most Ombudsman offices are established within specific agencies, such as an environmental protection agency. The federal government and some state governments have Ombudsman offices that handle complaints against any regulatory agency within its jurisdiction.