What to consider when filing a grievance

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Federal workers are fortunate. They have several legally defined processes available to them to complain about workplace treatment, theoretically free from reprisal. Most employees in the private sector have none. For complaints made by employees in the private sector regarding hours of work, office location, a work assignment, or a colleague or supervisor who is treating you disrespectfully, the usual response is: “If you’re not happy here, you can leave.” Feds have multiple processes and forums to lodge workplace complaints. One such process, the administrative grievance process, has been viewed poorly by feds in the past. But I think it…

Q & A Session: Timeframe for a Security Clearance

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Q: I’ve been waiting three weeks for a Department of Defense (“DoD”) DOS Security Clearance/Secret. Is this a normal amount of time? A: Three weeks is not an unusual length of time for a Department of Defense (“DoD”) security clearance adjudication. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (“IRTPA”) of 2004 required the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (“ODNI”) to annually report on the processing times for security clearances through February 2011. As part of its IRTPA Annual Report for 2010, the final and most recent ODNI issued under IRTPA, ODNI reported the average initiation, investigation, and adjudication processing…

Settlement agreements: Be clear and specific

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If you work in the arena of labor-employment relations or are a manager or supervisor, then you’ve likely had to negotiate a settlement with an employee who filed some sort of claim in connection with his or her employment. If the negotiations are successful, the terms are reduced to a written instrument. When the agreement is finally signed by both parties, it often brings a sense of relief to each side that the litigation has been resolved. But buyer beware. Even after years of litigation before the Merit Systems Protection Board and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, agencies still enter into…

Q & A Session: Doctor Appointments

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Q: My supervisor asked me for a doctor’s note that includes the time I arrived at the doctor’s office and the time I departed the doctor’s office on the day of my scheduled appointment. Am I required to provide this information? A: Office of Personnel Management regulations on sick leave permit agencies to require employees to submit administratively acceptable evidence. Generally, an employee’s self-certification can serve as administratively acceptable evidence. But, agencies can require a doctor’s note or other medical evidence for absences in excess of three days or after placement on a leave restriction letter. Employees should consult their…

Settlements and DSR eligibility

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If you read the recent Merit Systems Protection Board decision reversing the Office of Personnel Management’s denial of discontinued service retirement (DSR) to a Department of Interior employee, and you think you’ve got the green light to use a settlement agreement to create a circumstance by which an employee may become DSR eligible, I say beware of the yellow light. Proceed cautiously, as it appears OPM will be appealing this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and how the court of appeals decides this case is by no means certain. This case involved an employee…

Q & A Session: Losing an Annuity Due To Marijuana Use

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Q: Can a CSRS retiree lose his or her annuity if they start using medical marijuana under the supervision of a neurologist in Colorado where medical marijuana is legal? A: No, a retired federal employee receiving an annuity cannot lose that annuity because of marijuana use.  You may be worried about the possibility of losing your annuity because although some marijuana use is legal in Colorado, the federal government views your medicinal use of marijuana to be unlawful.  However, there is no real risk to your previously earned annuity.  Use of marijuana is not codified in federal statute as a…

Q & A Session: ADD Contributing to Tardiness

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Q: I was recently 57 minutes late to work. I thought I was scheduled at a different time than I was. I got suspended because it was my 3rd write up. The other two were over 6 months ago. My doctor is willing to write a letter and fill out paperwork because I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I really want to keep this job and I know I messed up. Do you think this is a valid argument? A: If you are asking whether you can argue that you should be afforded on hour of leave per the Family…

The new rules of enforced leave

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If you’re in an agency that places employees on forced leave, beware: The law has changed, and how the Merit Systems Protection Board will adjudicate an appeal of such actions has dramatically shifted. A Postal Service supervisor for customer services submitted a request to work on light-duty assignment. The employee’s supervisor denied her request on the grounds that, within the employee’s medical restrictions, there was no work available. The USPS then proposed and issued a final decision effecting the enforced leave action. The employee appealed the decision to the board, but an MSPB administrative judge dismissed the appeal finding that…

Q & A Session: Refunding Accidental Additional Money from an Agency

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Q: I received additional money in my paycheck. In my previous positions, it was not uncommon to receive awards without notification, so I assumed the additional money was a performance award. I have since been informed that it was an error and I need to repay the money. Am I responsible for someone else’s mistake? A: Yes, you must repay that money, regardless of whether or not you have already spent it.  It is not your money to keep.  You are only entitled to money or benefits from the government which are entitled to you by law.  You are not…

Q & A Session: Fighting Non-discrimination Based Unfair Treatment

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Q: How can you fight unfair treatment when it is not discrimination based? A: You could raise the issue with your supervisor. If your supervisor’s actions are what you find to be unfair, your agency’s grievance process may cover a grievance of unfair treatment. You would need to review your agency’s grievance procedures to see if your specific matter is covered. Also, depending on the unfair treatment, you could file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) if it involves a violation of the Civil Service Reform Act (prohibited personnel practices), the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act,…

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