Suspensions are generally used as a disciplinary measure and often affect a federal employee’s duty or pay. Depending on the offense, suspensions can be temporary or indefinite. If you are facing such a suspension, you still have legal rights. You are not forced to blindly accept this action.
In this article, our Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) lawyers will review the different types of suspensions federal employees face and what they may do to combat them.
Suspensions of 14 Days or Less
When suspending someone for this length of time, the federal employer must notify the worker in writing. Workers must also be told of their rights to review the material that led to this suspension.
Workers should have no less than 24 hours to overlook this material and answer the suspension. In this context, “answer” does not mean accepting the suspension. Challenging it is also an answer.
To challenge the suspension, you may submit documentation and other evidence against your alleged offense. You also have the right to representation. Your representative can be a lawyer, someone from a federal union or other such organization, or another employee. If it’s another employee, their representation cannot interrupt their regular job duties.
Once the suspension has been challenged, the worker is entitled to a final, written decision by the “earliest predictable date.”
Suspensions of More Than 14 Days
For such a severe penalty, workers are entitled to a written notice at least 30 days before the suspension begins. They must be allowed to continue their employment, uninterrupted, up to the date of the suspension.
Employees have more time to answer the charge. They have a full seven days to pull together evidence, resources, and representation. OPM requires that the employee have a “reasonable amount of time” to answer. This means the employee could be given more time, as their regular duties can slow them down.
The worker has a right to representation within the same boundaries as a shorter suspension. They are also entitled to a written decision at the “earliest predictable date.”
These suspensions do not have a specified end date. A specific event must occur to stop the suspension. This event will most likely be something required of the worker, such as the resolution of a problem.
Indefinite suspensions are justifiable when the employer believes the worker’s actions were criminal and the worker could face imprisonment. In such a case, something like a not-guilty verdict will end the suspension.
There also could be medical reasons for an indefinite suspension. For example, a worker could be facing a mental health crisis, and only treatment and a clean bill of health will end the suspension.
Finally, indefinite suspensions could be the result of an employee losing access to classified material. Losing this access could affect their ability to perform their job. Therefore, only a reinstatement of access will allow the employee to return to work.
The worker’s rights are the same as those of a suspension of 14 days or longer. Workers must have a 30-day written notice; they have seven or more days to answer; they may obtain representation; they are entitled to a written decision within the “predictable amount of time.”
Contact an MSPB Attorney for Help
In situations involving federal employees, the details matter. If you were not given proper notice or were not informed of your right to answer, you may have a case against your suspension. Furthermore, the suspension itself could be without merit or fueled by bias.
Talk to an attorney before accepting your suspension. Allow them to overlook the details of your case. They may find inconsistencies in how you were informed of your suspension. A lawyer could also uncover facts that suggest you were wrongly accused or accused based on personal prejudice.
If you are facing an adverse action suspension, contact our office for a consultation.
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