I recently did a series of training courses to managers and supervisors in a fairly large federal agency with two strong unions. The courses are designed to educate these managers on the rules that govern the firing of problem employees. The point of the course is to educate managers and supervisors on what can be a complex set of rules governing performance and conduct proceedings so as to empower them to act, and eliminate the myths about how hard each process can or should be. What came up over and over again in each session covering about 100 managers and…

I often hear employees affected by an adverse personnel action repeat urban legend that this Merit Systems Protection Board will likely reverse or mitigate the agency’s action taken against him or her. There’s also a growing belief in Congress that the MSPB is too employee friendly and a reason why there is a workplace culture of employee entitlement that detracts from an agency’s mission. Recent statistics from the MSPB tell a different story. What does this mean for you, a federal employee with MSPB appeal rights? Know before you go, as most likely the board will affirm (and not mitigate)…

Many federal workers are on an Alternative Work Schedule.  For many, that means you work nine hour days from Monday through Thursday, and eight hours every other Friday with the alternative Friday as your regular day off.  But over the past few years, I’ve heard from multiple federal workers that their agency’s Time and Attendance tracking system (WebTA) will not allow them to accurately record such a schedule.  So those employees are stuck with entering their time into the system essentially not accurately.  Is that ok? The issue that arises when you work an AWS and your T&A system will…

Federal managers are aware of the phrase “probationary period,” and most have dealt with employees who are in it while under the manager’s supervision. Research conducted by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) have shown repeatedly, however, that while managers know what a probationary period is, they more often than not don’t use it for its intended purpose: to assess the work performance of new employees and to remove nonperforming probationary employees before they obtain job protection rights under Title V that make it more cumbersome for managers to remove poor performers or employees who fail to fully conform to…

Q: If a 17-year vested federal law enforcement officer has his TS security clearance revoked and in turn is terminated, does he still get his retirement at 62? A: In most circumstances, yes. Termination from federal employment does not affect an employee’s annuity or retirement pay. However, a federal employee loses his or her annuity if he or she is convicted of certain crimes codified in 5 U.S.C. § 8312. These crimes are narrowly tailored, concerning acts of disloyalty to the United States. For example, 5 U.S.C. § 8312 lists the crimes of treason, sabotage, espionage, and insurrection. This…

Q: When making a request for sick leave, may my employing agency demand that I inform them of the medical condition that I am seeking treatment for? If I do not, may the agency deny my sick leave? A: It depends on the agency and its requirements regarding acceptable documentation for sick leave. Under 5 U.S.C. § 6307, an employee is entitled to sick leave with pay. In order to request sick leave, an employee must file an application under the procedures and time limits required by the federal agency in which he or she is employed. A federal agency…

Q: I would like to know if there is an allowed discrepancy of GS levels for the same position within the DOD. If not, what are potential methods of remedy that I should explore? A: A grade level represents a band or range of difficulty. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) prepares classification standards and functional guides, which are used when classifying a grade of a position. If the work assigned to a position is covered by criteria in a standard for a specific occupational series, the work is evaluated by that standard. However, if there are no specific…

The 2016 United States Presidential election season is upon us. As a federal executive branch employee, it’s important to be extremely careful when using social media to engage with, talk about, or otherwise post about the remaining presidential candidates. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in “political activity” while on duty. Duty status, of course, include telecommuting and other pay statuses other than paid leave. It also prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity in the workplace. In November, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) revised its previously issued guidance regarding social media activity to account for…

Q: If a 17 yr. vested federal law enforcement officer has his TS security clearance revoked and in turn is terminated, does he still get his retirement at 62? A: In most circumstances, yes. Termination from federal employment does not affect an employee’s annuity or retirement pay. However, a federal employee loses his or her annuity if he or she is convicted of certain crimes codified in 5 U.S.C. § 8312. These crimes are narrowly tailored, concerning acts of disloyalty to the United States. For example, 5 U.S.C. § 8312 lists the crimes of treason, sabotage, espionage, and insurrection. …

I thought I’d written my last column this year in which I offer advice on being interviewed by an Office of Inspector General. We litigated the two widely reported recent Veterans Benefits Act (VBA) cases before the Merit Systems Protection Board in which two career senior executives with stellar careers were demoted by the Department of Veterans Affairs based on an OIG report that turned out to be wholly unreliable. It became clear in the lead up to the two MSPB hearings that a major reason the report was so unreliable because of the testimony the OIG elicited from witnesses…

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