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…

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…

More than 30 years after enactment of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, federal managers and supervisors still complain that taking a performance-based action is too hard. Those complaints are ironic considering how employer friendly the CSRA is on performance actions. When I tell managers the real statutory rules for taking a performance based action and the type of review such actions undergo by the Merit Systems Protection Board, they universally express shock, accompanied by dropped jaws, accompanied by exclamations that their HR offices never told them what I’m telling them. Why is it that the federal…

In January 2014, I wrote about a Merit Systems Protection Board decision in Miller v. Department of Interior that found an agency’s geographic reassignment of an employee to be legally insufficient. OPM took issue with the legal standard for ordering an employee’s geographic reassignment that MSPB imposed on agencies through that case, and appealed the MSPB decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A few weeks ago, that court issued a decision reversing the MSPB. I opined in my earlier column that it seemed possible that the use of geographic reassignments may be getting a fresh…

Q: Can an individual sue OPM for letting her personnel information get hacked? A: Yes. A suit could be brought alleging a violation of the Privacy Act of 1974 by OPM for failing to protect information contained in a system of records.  Specifically, an agency is prohibited from disclosing “any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to a person.  .  .  except pursuant to written request by, or with the written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains,”  subject to exceptions which are not applicable in this case.  See, 5 U.S.C.…

I recently provided training to federal managers on how to effectively manage difficult employees. I raised the issue of applying the Douglas factors to determine the appropriate penalty for a subordinate’s misconduct. I was struck by how many managers admitted that they heavily relied on human resources’ instructions as to what penalty was appropriate, with the primary emphasis being on how others had been penalized for similar misconduct. Not only is the wrong agency official doing the Douglas analysis, but there are 11 other Douglas factors that may be relevant to a manager’s penalty determination Managers who act as proposing…

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…

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