I Received a Notice of Proposed Removal. What Should I Do?

May 24, 2023
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

If you have received a Notice of Proposed Removal as a federal employee, this means that your agency has initiated the process of terminating your employment. While it may still be possible to save your job, there are steps you will need to take—and that you will need to take promptly—to ensure that you receive all of the protections to which you are legally entitled.

But, while you need to respond to your Notice of Proposed Removal, you also need to be careful. If you do not respond effectively, you could lose your federal job unnecessarily. Federal employees’ responses to Notices of Proposed Removal can even diminish their chances of protecting their jobs in some cases.

Steps to Take After Receiving a Notice of Proposed Removal as a Federal Employee

So, what should you do if you have received a Notice of Proposed Removal from your federal agency? While every federal employee’s situation is unique, here are some steps that it will be important to take in most cases:

1. Determine Whether You Are Still in Your Probationary Period

While federal employees are entitled to job protections that are not available to employees in the private sector, many of these protections are only available after a federal employee’s probationary period ends. As a result, if you are still relatively new to your federal job, you will want to confirm whether your probationary period is over. If it is, you are entitled to all of the protections afforded to federal employees in your position. If it isn’t, you will need to work with your attorney to determine which protections apply.

2. Carefully Review Your Notice of Proposed Removal

When you receive a Notice of Proposed Removal, it is important to review the Notice very carefully. Among other things, you will want to make sure you know the deadlines that apply, and you will want to try to figure out specifically why your federal agency is seeking to terminate your employment. Even if you think you know, you should not make any assumptions. If you aren’t clear on why your federal job is at risk, an experienced federal employment attorney can help.

3. Hire an Experienced Federal Employment Attorney to Represent You

Even if you are clear on why you are facing removal, it is important to speak with an experienced federal employment attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to explain the steps you need to take to try to protect your federal job, and your attorney will be able to take legal action on your behalf as warranted. Your attorney can also guide you through the response process—helping you make smart decisions and avoid mistakes that could further jeopardize your employment.

4. Request All Documents that Are Relevant to the Agency’s Decision to Pursue Removal

When you are facing removal as a federal employee, you have the right to request—and obtain—all of the documents that are relevant to your agency’s decision to pursue removal. You will want to work with your attorney to request these documents (or have your attorney request them on your behalf), and then you will want to work with your attorney to review them in detail. Even if these documents confirm that your federal agency has grounds to terminate your employment, this will allow you to make informed decisions about your next steps. On the other hand, if these documents show that you have grounds to fight removal (and perhaps pursue a claim for federal employment discrimination), this is something you need to know as soon as possible.

5. Determine if the Grounds for Removal Stated in the Notice are Valid

By reviewing the records you obtain from your federal agency, you can determine if the grounds for removal stated in your Notice are valid. Under the laws that protect federal employees’ job security, federal agencies can only pursue termination on specific and limited grounds. Even if you are not a victim of discrimination or other intentional misconduct, you may still have grounds to fight removal based on other protections that apply.

6. Work with Your Attorney to Carefully Craft Your Response

Typically, federal employees who have received a Notice of Proposed Removal should respond both orally and in writing. But, federal employees must craft both responses carefully, and they must do so with a specific goal in mind. Is your goal to have the Notice rescinded? Or are you more interested in negotiating a settlement and parting ways? Both may be viable options and here too, you will want to work closely with your attorney to ensure that your response advances your goals.

7. Be Prepared for the Next Steps in the Process

While responding appropriately to your Notice of Proposed Removal is an important step, it is ultimately just one step in the process. Once you respond, the agency’s deciding official will consider the Notice, your response and all relevant documentation and then apply the “Douglas Factors” to determine what type of employment action (if any) is warranted.

If the deciding official determines that removal is warranted, this still isn’t necessarily the end of your case. As a federal employee, you have the right to appeal your removal, and doing so starts with taking your case to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). You will need an experienced attorney to represent you at the MSPB as well, and having an attorney who is already familiar with your case can help to both streamline the appeals process and maximize your chances of success on appeal.

Contact Us to Discuss Your Notice of Proposed Removal with an Attorney in Confidence

Have you received a Notice of Proposed Removal from your federal agency? If so, we strongly encourage you to speak with one of our attorneys about your next steps. To arrange a confidential consultation with a federal employment attorney at The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, please call 410-709-7338 or contact us online today.