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Let a Maryland Federal Wrongful Termination Lawyer Protect Your Rights

Getting fired is bad enough. But imagine getting fired for an unfair reason, such as your employer not liking the church you go to, your desire to have a family, the year you were born or the color of your skin. If you’re unfortunate enough to lose your job for one of these reasons, you might be curious as to what legal actions you might be able to take. The best way to learn what you should do next is to talk with a seasoned Maryland federal wrongful termination lawyer. They can listen to your situation and help answer your most pressing legal questions. It’s not like talking to a lawyer means you have to sue your employer for wrongful termination. In fact, you may not be able to until you take other steps first. To find out more about what these steps are, reach out to the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford.

How the Termination Process Usually Works for Federal Employees in Maryland 

When it comes to removing, or firing, a federal employee, there are usually two separate termination processes. The first applies when the federal employee is on his or her probationary period.

This period typically lasts one year and allows an employer to fire an employee for any reason, as long as it’s not illegal. Basically, the probationary period for a federal employee is very similar to the “at-will” employment relationship at a company or other private employer. Most probationary employees can be let go for three possible reasons.

The first and second reasons are for improper conduct and poor on-the-job performance. In these situations, the employee may not receive any advanced notice of the termination, but should receive a written document outlining the reasons for the firing.

The third common reason for firing a probationary federal employee is for a pre-employment issue. This can occur, for example, if the criminal background check flags a possible problem in the employee’s past. The employee will have a few more rights before firing in that they will get advanced notice of the termination and an opportunity to explain what happened.

For the most part, removing a federal employee during the probationary period will give the employee few appeal rights. Most of these rights will only exist if the agency fired the employee for illegal reasons, such as discrimination, retaliation or an improper personnel practice.

If the employee is fired for retaliatory or discriminatory reasons, they can go to an Employment (EEO) Counselor for relief. If an improper personnel action took place, the employee will go to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

If the federal employee is no longer on probation when fired, the removal process is different and a bit more complicated. One reason for this is because a non-probationary employee is often fired for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Misconduct
  • Poor performance

In either or both of these situations, two sets of laws can potentially dictate how an employer can fire the employee:

  • 5 CFR part 752 (these regulations come from Chapter 75 of Title 5 of the U.S.C.)
  • 5 CFR part 432 (these regulations come from Chapter 43 of Title 5 of the U.S.C.)

When a federal employee is let go for performance reasons, 5 CFR part 432 will usually apply. This requires the implementation of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) before firing the employee. Assuming the PIP does not work, the employee is first given notice of the proposed removal.

Next, the employee has a chance to refute the reasons for his or her removal and the appropriate official will make a decision. The fired employee will then be told what grievance and appeal rights are available.

If misconduct is the basis for the federal employee’s termination, the removal process is very similar, except no PIP is involved. Another difference is that the employee may have the right to appeal the removal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

The Termination Procedure for SES Federal Employees: The Basics

For employees of the Senior Executive Service (SES), the removal process is different.

Removal of an SES Employee for Job Performance Reasons

The removal process for any SES employees due to performance-related reasons requires at least some form of advanced notice. If the removal applies to a probationary SES employee, then the removal must occur before the end of the probationary period.

Non-probationary SES employees will have additional rights and protections, but no SES employee (whether probationary or non-probationary) fired for performance reasons can appeal their firing to the MSPB. However, an SES employee that’s no longer on probation and being fired for job performance reasons can request an informal hearing before the MSPB. This hearing does not serve as an appeal.

If the termination is wrongful because it’s due to discrimination, retaliation or a prohibited employment action, then all SES employees can file a complaint through the appropriate government official or organization, such as an EEO Counselor or the OSC.

Removal for Reasons Unrelated to Job Performance

Firing a probationary SES employee for reasons unrelated to job performance largely parallels the steps for removing a probationary SES employee who is fired for performance reasons. However, the process for firing a non-probationary SES employee for non-performance related reasons is a bit more complex. One of the key differences is the ability to appeal the removal to the MSPB.

One thing to note about the above discussion is that it’s just a broad overview of federal employee removal. There are other differences in the process and rights available, especially with respect to certain types of SES employees. Unfortunately, these details go well beyond the scope of this page. To learn your exact removal rights as a federal employee, you’re strongly advised to seek the counsel of a Maryland federal wrongful termination lawyer.

When a Legal Termination Becomes a Wrongful Termination

A termination becomes wrongful when it violates a law, policy or contract. In many cases of wrongful termination, discrimination or retaliation serves as the primary reason for firing the employee.

Most employees working for the federal government will enjoy protections from discrimination and retaliation that comes from federal laws:

Another common reason for wrongfully terminating a federal employee is due to a prohibited personnel practice. The OSC has the task of investigating and enforcing 14 types of prohibited personnel practices. The ones that relate to wrongful termination include:

  • Discrimination. Most claims of discrimination will not involve the OSC, but rather, the EEO complaint process or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, discrimination based on an employee’s marital status or political affiliation is under the OSC’s jurisdiction.
  • Other types of discrimination. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee for any conduct that has no relation to the employee’s ability to perform his or her job.
  • Coerced political activity. An employer cannot try to pressure an employee to engage in a particular political activity. Additionally, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for the employee’s choice in political activities.
  • Whistleblower retaliation. An employee may blow the whistle for a violation of law, gross mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial danger to public safety. If a firing is based at least in part because the employee blew the whistle, then there is a good chance the firing constitutes wrongful termination.
  • Other types of retaliation. If an employee engages in a protected activity, wrongful termination can result if the employee is fired in retaliation for that protected activity. The four main types of protected activities include: filing an appeal, complaint or grievance; assisting another person in an appeal, complaint or grievance; cooperating with an inspector general or special counsel or refusing to obey an order that requires the employee to break the law.
  • Violation of a Merit System Principle. Acting as a catch-all, this means that an agency may be liable for a prohibited personnel practice if it would violate a merit system law, rule or regulation.

Fight Back with the Help of Maryland Federal Wrongful Termination Attorney

You don’t have to accept your firing or assume it was legal and proper. If your agency violated a law when it fired you, there’s a chance you have a federal wrongful termination case against your employer.

To learn if this is the case in your situation, as well as what you need to do next, set up a consultation with an understanding Maryland federal wrongful termination lawyer from the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford. If you prefer, you can also call us at 410-514-6099.