As a federal employee, disciplinary actions are something to avoid.
Although disciplinary actions are less serious than adverse actions, they can still put a serious blemish on your record. For that reason, it is vital you understand and exercise your rights as a federal employee when you receive a proposed disciplinary action.
Read on to learn about common types of disciplinary actions, how to exercise your rights, and how a talented federal employment attorney can assist you.
What Types of Disciplinary Action Are There?
Within the federal government, the common definition of a “disciplinary action” includes any one of the following:
- A letter of reprimand;
- A letter of counseling; and
- Any suspension of 14 days or fewer.
Note that depending on the agency, a letter of counseling may not be considered a disciplinary action.
Disciplinary actions are typically the first actions taken by an agency against an employee for misconduct. They stand in contrast to adverse actions, which include more serious punishments like demotion, removal, or suspensions of more than 14 days.
How Does the Disciplinary Action Process Work?
Typically, the first step of a disciplinary action is an investigation into alleged misconduct. The agency will appoint a special individual, usually a manager, to gather evidence and interview witnesses.
The investigator will assemble all collected evidence and present their findings to higher management, often with recommendations. After that time, human resource personnel receive authorization from managing officials to draft disciplinary actions. Once those drafts have been reviewed and approved, they are issued to the employee.
What Rights Do I Have for Responding to Disciplinary Actions?
Within the federal government, employees faced with a disciplinary action receive different rights than those who face a proposed adverse action. For one, agencies do not need to give the employee advance notice of a disciplinary action. But like adverse actions, your agency must explain what alleged behavior led to the disciplinary action.
Agencies should also cite supporting documents or other evidence to justify the charge against you. If you do not receive a copy of the evidence, you should request one from the agency immediately after receiving your disciplinary action notice.
An employee response to disciplinary action depends on several factors. Unlike adverse actions, employees cannot appeal disciplinary actions to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
As the Office of Personnel Management notes, an OPM letter of counseling and other disciplinary actions “may be grievable” depending on the employee’s coverage under a collective bargaining agreement.
An OPM letter of reprimand and other disciplinary actions “are usually covered under agency policies . . . and may be issued with fewer procedural requirements.” To learn more about your specific rights, it’s best to consult a qualified federal employment attorney.
What Can I Do If My Agency Is Discriminating Against Me?
Ideally, agencies should only take disciplinary actions in response to legitimate instances of employee misbehavior. But sometimes, agencies discipline employees for illegal reasons.
Your agency cannot discipline you because of your:
- Sexual orientation,
- National origin,
- Gender identity
- Religious beliefs,
- Medical disability,
- Age, or
- Prior protected activity (like filing an EEO complaint).
If you suspect your agency is discriminating against you, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can also file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel if you believe your agency disciplined you because of a prohibited personnel practice.
We Can Help You Defend Your Career and Your Reputation
Understanding the basics of federal employee disciplinary actions is just the beginning. If you want to maximize your chances of successfully defending yourself, you should consult a qualified attorney.
We can assess the specific factual landscape of your situation and advise you of your legal options. In addition, we can help you respond to your agency and represent you in an EEOC hearing or union grievance.
Here at Pines Federal, our attorneys strive to protect the rights and reputations of our fine federal servants. Collectively, our attorneys have decades of experience helping our clients fight for their rights.
Our skilled attorneys have experience working with employees from a wide variety of federal agencies. We have obtained stellar results for many of our clients and hope to add you to our list of satisfied customers. Don’t wait. Reach out to us today at (800) 801-0598 or contact our firm online.