Browsing: Ethics

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: I am a military reservist and also a full-time civilian federal employee. I am hoping to advance in my civil service career, and hope to be promoted. However, my manager has made several comments that I might be deployed in the near future. There has been no indication that I will be deployed, and I worry that my status as a reservist is being used to inhibit my career progression. How can I be sure that I am treated fairly? A: As a subordinate, it is difficult to ensure that you are treated fairly – how you are treated is largely…

Most of the current government scandals are rooted in the results of an Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation. Subjects of an OIG investigation have limited rights, but even so, knowing your rights can make a substantial difference in the outcome of an investigation into you. For starters, do you have a right to know who made the allegations against you or see the complaint? No. Also, don’t ask the OIG who complained about you. IG’s tend to be suspicious about why the accused wants to know who made the complaint. They think asking for an identity of the…

Q: I have an EEO Complaint and I designated a representative to represent me. Initially, my representative was not employed. However, my representative recently began to work in EEO office of another agency. The Agency’s representative is now asking my representative if she would have a conflict of interest representing me. Can she be my representative? A: In some cases, a representative can be disqualified for having a conflict of interest. As the Code of Federal Regulation states: “[i]n cases where the representation of a complainant or agency would conflict with the official or collateral duties of the representative, the Commission or…

Q: I was removed from a federal position for off-duty misconduct. I appealed to MSPB and won for procedural violations. The agency again proposed removal and I entered a settlement agreement with clean resignation “for personal reasons.” In 2015, I applied for a position with the federal government. The OF 306 asks is I’ve been fired, or asked to resign in the last five years for any specific problems. If I say yes, the whole agreement will come up and have to be explained, but I don’t want to say no and have them think I’m falsifying. What should I say? A: As…

Q: Another coworker and I competed for a the same supervisor position, and my coworker got it. After a few months, I was transferred to another caseload and was put under that same coworker with whom I’d competed for the supervisor role. Is that legal? A: Management has the right to assign work to employee.  Nothing in the law prohibits management from assigning an employee to work underneath a supervisory position that an employee previously competed for, or from working underneath a supervisor who was previously a peer of that employee.  Thus, while it may be an uncomfortably adjustment being…

Many said it would never happen, but just as many big, private sector firms are ending their bring-your-own-device programs (BYOD, for short), the Department of Defense is starting one. DoD has announced a BYOD pilot program set to begin this summer. Security concerns raised by employees’ use of their personal devices for work purposes are widely discussed, but there remains little guidance for employees coping with the challenges likely to arise from a BYOD policy. In light of this development, let’s review how to work with BYOD as an employment benefit instead of an employment headache. Under most…

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…

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…