Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
I was currently involved in a scuffle with another employee from my agency while on TDY. This occurred afterhours at the hotel we were staying at. I am currently on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation. Does my organization still possess jurisdiction over me afterhours while on TDY?
Yes, your Federal employer may place you on administrative leave, conduct an investigation, and/or discipline you for having a “scuffle” with a co-worker during non-duty hours at a hotel that you are staying at while on official travel.
To elaborate, 5 C.F.R. § 752.404(b)(3) allows a Federal employee to be placed on administrative leave when an employee’s presence in the workplace “may pose a threat to the employee or others, result in loss of or damage to Government property, or otherwise jeopardize legitimate Government interests.” In your case, one could reasonably conclude that, given the “scuffle” between you and a co-worker while staying at a hotel paid for by the Government, your continued presence in the workplace, whether a temporary duty station or permanent duty station, would pose a threat to yourself or other employees, and/or jeopardize Government interests. Accordingly, placing you on administrative leave was not inappropriate under the circumstances.
Moreover, a Federal employer may discipline an employee for acts or omissions, whether committed on or off duty, so long as the disciplinary action promotes the efficiency of the Federal service. See 5 U.S.C. § 7503(a), 5 U.S.C. §7513(a). Thus, regardless of whether the “scuffle” occurred off or on duty, your employer may conclude that it promotes the efficiency of the service to discipline you for partaking in a “scuffle” with a co-worker during non-duty hours at a hotel that you are staying at while on official travel.
Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.
Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.