5 Tips for Federal Employees Facing Proposed Discipline or Removal

July 31, 2022
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Woman in shock receiving paper

As a federal employee, there are a few things less daunting than receiving a Notice of a Proposed Discipline or Removal. The conduct or performance issue being addressed could have been a slight misstep or a serious one. Regardless, it is an extremely stressful process that can feel as though you are facing the entire might of the Federal Government. The good news is that as a federal employee, you are entitled to due process and have substantive rights—less so if you are in your probationary period—to help even the playing field. Should you receive a Notice of Adverse Action or Removal, remember the Stafford Trial Team’s Five Rs: Retain, Request, Review, Record, and Respond.

Retain an Experienced Lawyer

In the unfortunate event that you receive a Notice of a Proposed Discipline or Removal, we recommend that you immediately retain, or at the very least, speak to one of our experienced employment lawyers. While you are not required to retain an attorney, we highly recommend retaining an attorney with experience representing federal employees. The experienced attorneys at The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford are trained to spot the weaknesses in an agency’s Proposed Discipline or Removal and to guide you to a favorable outcome. To get started, contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, either online or by telephone at 410-514-6099.

Request any Relevant Documents

Before you receive a Notice of Proposed Discipline, the agency would have already conducted an extensive investigation into the alleged misconduct or alleged performance issue. They will leave no stone unturned and review all the relevant documents and evidence in the matter. As a federal employee facing discipline, you have the right to request—and the agency must hand over—all the relevant documents that the agency relied on in preparation of the Notice. It is imperative that you request these documents as soon as you receive a Notice.

Review Underlying Documents

The agency has the authority to take disciplinary action, e.g. demote or remove, an employee under Chapter 43, which deals with performance-based reasons or under Chapter 75 of Title V, which deals with both conduct and performance-based reasons. The agency may act under either statute, provided they comply with the rules in the statute. Now that you have requested and received the relevant evidence relied on by the agency, you should thoroughly review that evidence to help understand the specifics of the allegations being brought against you.

Record Your Deadlines

Once you have reviewed the Notice and the underlying documents, it critical that you record all the important deadlines. Generally, the agency must give you at least 7 days to reply to a proposed suspension exceeding 14 days, a proposed removal, or demotion. For suspension under 14 days, the agency must give you at least 24 hours to reply. If necessary, you should request an extension of the deadline in writing and ensure that the agency’s response to your request is also in writing. Be sure to pay attention to other deadlines, such as the deadline to appeal the deciding official’s final decision.

Respond to the Notice

It is easy to presume that once a Notice has been issued, there is nothing you can do about it—that is wrong. There is a lot that can be done to either rescind the proposed discipline entirely or reach a more palatable settlement with the agency. We recommend responding to the Notice, both orally and in writing. Responding allows you to present your arguments to the deciding official on why the proposed discipline should be rescinded and it allows you to discuss the mitigating circumstances, known as the Douglas Factors, which are factors used to argue for a reduction in the proposed discipline.

Work With a Skilled Attorney Today

This is a very general review of the key things you should remember when you are facing a Notice of a Proposed Removal. Contact the attorneys at The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford immediately to see how we can help you.