Review your SF-50s for accuracy

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If you have been issued a disciplinary or adverse action, that means you received a suspension from duty of one to 14 days, a suspension of 15 days or more, or a demotion or termination. Admittedly, there are not many federal workers who have received a suspension, demotion or removal action. But I think it’s worth offering some advice regarding how the disciplinary or adverse action is noted in your official personnel file, or OPF.

Suspensions, demotions and removals are affected by the issuance of an SF-50, which is to be placed into your OPF. Most federal workers now have an e-OPF, to which the employee has easy access. That will help you confirm that all employment actions are correctly noted in your employment file.

A suspension requires the issuance of two SF-50s: One to suspend you from duty and one to return you to duty. A demotion or removal requires issuance of only one SF-50.

The SF-50 has 50 blocks that must be completed by the agency. If suspended, pay particular attention to block 4 (effective date) and blocks 5 and 6 (nature and legal authority for the action).  If you’ve been demoted, you should also review blocks 7 through 22, which document the position, pay and grade you previously occupied into the position, pay and grade of your demotion.

When representing clients who have had a disciplinary or adverse action taken against them, we review the SF-50 effecting the action to ensure these blocks are coded and annotated correctly. Often we see an error on the SF-50, such as the wrong effective date, the wrong legal authority, or the wrong pay or grade. Many of the blocks of the SF-50 are simply coded with numbers and letters.

By law, the Office of Personnel Management maintains control of employee OPFs, so it is OPM that dictates how an SF-50 is completed. OPM issues the Guide to Processing Personnel Actions, which provides all codes for each block of the SF-50. Check the code on your SF-50 and compare it to the OPM guide to determine whether your agency has coded each block of your SF-50 correctly.

If you question a code or annotation on your SF-50 after reviewing the OPM guide, contact human resources promptly. Be sure to point out which block you dispute and on which provision of the OPM guide you rely. If you’re reading the guide correctly, it should be easy for HR to see that an error has occurred and begin steps to correct the error by issuing another SF-50.

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About Author

Debra Roth

Debra L. Roth is a partner at the law firm Shaw Bransford & Roth, a federal employment law firm in Washington, D.C. She is general counsel to the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association, host of the “FEDtalk” program on Federal News Radio, and a regular contributor to Federal News Radio’s “Federal Drive” morning show. Email your legal questions to lawyer@federaltimes.com.

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