Federal Employees: Dealing With Disciplinary Actions

Federal employees generally enjoy stronger job security than employees in the private sector, but that job security is not without limits. While many believe that it is almost impossible to fire a federal employee, the truth is that the federal government can and does fire employees with some regularity. Before that extreme stage, however, federal employees are issued one or more disciplinary actions (also known as adverse actions). Below, we will outline the two major types of federal disciplinary actions and the rights of federal employees who receive them.

For more information about any of the topics presented herein, please contact a Maryland federal employment lawyer.

What Are Federal Employee Disciplinary Actions?

The rules and regulations governing disciplinary actions for federal employees are found at 5 U.S.C. Chapter 75, Subchapters I and II.

Subchapter I

Subchapter I covers minor infractions (such as persistent tardiness) for which the potential penalty is suspension from employment for up to 14 days. Under Subchapter I, an employee against whom a suspension of this nature is proposed is entitled to:

  1. Advance written notice stating the reasons for the proposed action
  2. A reasonable time to answer orally and in writing and furnish evidence in support of the answer
  3. Be represented by an attorney or other representative
  4. A written decision and the specific reasons therefor

In most cases, Subchapter I actions are not appealable.

Subchapter II

Subchapter II covers more serious misconduct — up to and including criminal conduct — for which the potential penalty includes:

  • Suspensions of longer than 14 days
  • Reductions in grade
  • Reductions in pay
  • Removal (termination)

Due to the more serious consequences involved here, Subchapter II actions afford more protections to federal employees than Subchapter I. Under Subchapter II, an employee is entitled to:

  1. At least 30 days’ advance written notice (unless there is cause to believe the employee has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed)
  2. Not less than seven days to answer orally and in writing and to furnish evidence in support of the answer
  3. Be represented by an attorney or other representative
  4. A written decision and the specific reasons therefor

Employees who are facing disciplinary actions under Subchapter II are entitled to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

Appealing a Disciplinary Action

Employees wishing to contest their agency’s decision to remove them, suspend them for over 14 days, or reduce their pay or grade may appeal the agency’s decision to the MSPB. When determining whether the agency’s action was appropriate, the MSPB considers a number of factors, including:

  • The nature and seriousness of the offense
  • The employee’s job level and type of employment
  • The employee’s work record
  • The consistency of the penalty with those imposed upon other employees by the agency
  • The potential for the employee’s rehabilitation

Should the MSPB rule that the agency’s action was improper, remedies available to the employee include reinstatement, back pay, change in pay or grade, and reimbursement of lost benefits, among others.

Contact a Maryland Federal Employment Lawyer

Disciplinary actions can have a serious adverse impact on a federal employee’s career. If you are a federal employee facing a disciplinary action, you have the right to be represented by counsel. To get started on mounting a defense, please contact a Maryland federal employment lawyer at the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford for a consultation by calling 410-514-6099.

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