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.

In the past year, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has issued several decisions reversing an agency’s adverse action against an employee because the agency failed to follow its own adverse action procedures. Not every instance in which an agency fails to follow its own action will result in reversal. Rather, those instances in which the failure to follow the internal agency procedure results in “harmful error.” Most if not all agencies have internal procedures for taking an adverse action. Those procedures mostly mirror and then build upon the governmentwide statutes and regulations proscribing the taking of an adverse…

Debra L. Roth is a partner at the law firm Shaw Bransford & Roth in Washington. 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.  The VA took a firm public position that despite the special firing authority Congress passed last summer, VA senior executives retained a constitutional right to their jobs and thus were entitled to pre-termination due process. Then, VA litigated the opposite position before an…

I’d be remiss in my role as the columnist charged with offering legal advice to readers if I did not close 2014 with advice on the obtuse and cumbersome rules governing gift-giving. So, to do so, I went back to a column written by Bill Bransford, my predecessor columnist. By way of introduction, I remind readers that the rules governing gift-giving by or to executive branch employees are issued by the Office of Government Ethics. Those regulations are complex, cumbersome, with generally stated prohibitions followed by lists of exceptions. And yes, Congress is exempt from these rules. You can find…

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…

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…

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: 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: 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…

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: 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…

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