Author Debra Roth

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.

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…

You may have missed the February announcement from the Merit Systems Protection Board that it lacks a quorum. That means the board is unable to issue decisions by board members, so decisions of its administrative judges are not reviewable by the board until a quorum is restored. The MSPB is currently without two of its three board members after the resignation of then-Chairman Susan Grundmann on Jan. 7 and the earlier resignation and lack of replacement for the previous vice chairman, whose term expired in March 2015. Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump designated Mark Robbins (who is still serving…

Whether your rating period is tied to the fiscal or calendar year, you’ve just received or are about to receive your annual rating. That rating can be the basis for eligibility for an end-of-year bonus or a pay increase. It is also used when seeking a new position in the federal government. For these reasons, federal workers take the annual rating seriously. Here’s what to do if you disagree with your annual rating.

A recent decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the federal appeals court that decides employee appeals from the Merit Systems Protection Board, made me think about a long-standing belief held by federal employees that it is illegal for their employer to require them to perform job duties above their grade level. It’s not per se illegal, although there are some processes by which a federal worker could be compensated at the higher grade level.

Federal employees have a variety of ways to complain about the conditions of their workplace. The most common methods are: An equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint. A hotline complaint with the Office of Inspector General. A grievance under a collective bargaining agreement. A grievance through the agency’s administrative grievance procedure. A complaint of a prohibited personnel practice with the Office of Special Counsel. With the exception of complaints filed with the OIG, the other processes have mechanisms for resolving the dispute without having to proceed all the way to a final adjudication. Those resolution methods involve mediation, facilitation or just…

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…

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…

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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