Q: I would like to know if there is an allowed discrepancy of GS levels for the same position within the DOD. If not, what are potential methods of remedy that I should explore? A: A grade level represents a band or range of difficulty. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) prepares classification standards and functional guides, which are used when classifying a grade of a position. If the work assigned to a position is covered by criteria in a standard for a specific occupational series, the work is evaluated by that standard. However, if there are no specific…

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: If a 17 yr. vested federal law enforcement officer has his TS security clearance revoked and in turn is terminated, does he still get his retirement at 62? A: In most circumstances, yes. Termination from federal employment does not affect an employee’s annuity or retirement pay. However, a federal employee loses his or her annuity if he or she is convicted of certain crimes codified in 5 U.S.C. § 8312. These crimes are narrowly tailored, concerning acts of disloyalty to the United States. For example, 5 U.S.C. § 8312 lists the crimes of treason, sabotage, espionage, and insurrection. …

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…

Q: If I resign, would I have no recourse with MSPB? A: Generally not. An employee-initiated action, like resignation, is presumed voluntary and outside of the Merit System Protection Board’s (MSPB) jurisdiction. Freeborn v. Dep’t of Justice, 119 M.S.P.R. 290, 294 (2013). However, if the federal employee presents sufficient evidence to establish that the action was obtained through duress, coercion, or shows a reasonable person would have been misled by the agency, the presumption of voluntariness is removed. Green v. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, 112 M.S.P.R. 59, 63 (2009). The employee has the burden of proving the MSPB’s jurisdiction by…

This is my third consecutive column on your rights in an OIG investigative interview. My first column on this subject discussed whether you have “a legal right” to see the complaint made against you or be told the details of the allegations that comprise the complaint, know the identity of the person who lodged the complaint, or have a right to be represented in the interview by an attorney. In my second column, I explained your right to be informed about whether you were legally obligated to answer OIG questions and how to know when you are legally required or…

It always amazes me how federal employees will let themselves be interviewed by federal law enforcement without even a basic understanding of their rights. The employees usually believe that they did nothing wrong, so the OIG interview will be harmless. Wrong. The OIG community is banking on you not knowing or understanding your rights as a means for gaining an advantage in an investigative interview. And they will gain that advantage in most instances because the uninformed subject of the investigation is an easy target. (See part 1 here). Simply believing you did nothing wrong and explaining so to the…

Q:  I am a GS-09 seeking a promotion go a GS-11 position. How can I be sure that I will get a promotion?  I already fill in for GS-11 employees when they are out sick or use leave. I believe I already have some of the experience and qualifications needed for a promotion. A:  Gaining the experience you have by filling in for higher-graded employees is an excellent source of experience, and hopefully an indicator that you will be promoted in the future. However, there is no way to be sure that you will get a promotion. There must first…

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…

Q:  I know that I must work 12 months before I am eligible to take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.  I worked for the federal government for two years, followed by a four year break in service when I worked in the private sector. After spending four years in the private sector, I returned to federal employment and have been federally employed for the last eight months. I currently work for the VA, yet my prior service was with another agency. Am I eligible to take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act? A:  Unfortunately, use of leave under…

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