| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What Federal Employees Should Know About Working While Pregnant

Federal employees who are pregnant or may become pregnant have special rights under the law. For one, they have protections against pregnancy-based discrimination and gender-based discrimination. In addition, they have the legal right to receive certain work adjustments while they are pregnant.  If you or a loved one are facing pregnancy-related discrimination or are not receiving accommodations from a federal employer, you should contact a qualified workplace discrimination attorney immediately.  Working While Pregnant: Relevant Laws  In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). This act expanded the prohibition against sex discrimination to include discrimination relating to pregnancy, childbirth, and all related conditions. In other words, your employer cannot discriminate against any employees in any way because they are pregnant or were pregnant. This prohibition applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, and job assignments. In addition, employers cannot discriminate against employees because they intend to become pregnant or have a medical condition related to pregnancy. The PDA also prevents employers from harassing those who are working while pregnant. Harassment includes a variety of behaviors, including: Slurs and name-calling; Derogatory comments; Offensive gestures; Ridicule or mockery; Physical assaults; Threats; and Insults. Finally, the PDA prohibits employers from excluding pregnant women from certain work conditions for their “protection.”  Due to these expansive protections against pregnancy-related discrimination, any employee who believes they are experiencing harassment because they are working while pregnant should contact an attorney.  Accommodations for Working While Pregnant Other laws provide additional protections for pregnant employees. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act entitles employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave for the birth of a child. Furthermore, employees who are working full-time while pregnant—or even just part-time—may be able to get accommodations to help them perform their job. According to the EEOC, possible accommodations for employees who are working while pregnant can include things like: Ergonomic office furniture; Permission to sit or stand while working; Work shift changes; Permission to work from home; and Altered break schedules. A pregnant employee can also receive accommodation for conditions that are caused or aggravated by their pregnancy. Potential conditions include: Lupus; Anemia; Gestational diabetes; Postpartum depression; and Complications from childbirth. Ideally, the pregnant employee will be able to perform the regular duties of her job with accommodations. In some situations, however, the employee may not be able to perform certain functions of their job while pregnant. In these cases, the PDA allows employers to temporarily alter the pregnant employee’s job duties. Alternatively, the employer can transfer the pregnant employee to a different position until she delivers the child. Employers should engage in an interactive discussion with pregnant employees to determine possible accommodations. Do You Want to Learn More About How the Law Protects Those Who Are Working While Pregnant? Creating a family is a special and exciting time of life for most people. Although it also comes with many challenges and trials, discrimination and harassment should never enter the picture.  When discrimination and harassment occurs, it can have a devastatingly negative impact on the mother’s mental and physical health. That’s why it is so important for you to get legal help immediately if you think you or someone you love are suffering from workplace pregnancy discrimination. Here at the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC., we are fully committed to protecting our clients from any form of workplace discrimination. We will fight to ensure that you have a safe place to work, free from discrimination. We’ll also fight to get you any compensation you deserve for any harm you have endured so far. Even if you aren’t sure whether you need an attorney or are facing discrimination, contact us today. All of our initial consultations are free, so you have nothing to lose by reaching out today. Don’t wait. Give us a call today at (866) 612-5956.  Let us help you defend your rights!

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What to Do If Your Security Clearance Was Revoked

As almost any federal employee can tell you, receiving and holding a security clearance is a common part of government work. In fact, the overwhelming majority of government positions require some level of clearance, whether it is confidential, secret, or top secret. For that reason, a revoked security clearance can be devastating for your career. Yet there is hope for those who have their security clearance revoked. Read on to learn about your options after your agency revokes your security clearance. Keep in mind, however, that you should contact a workplace discrimination lawyer immediately after your security clearance has been revoked. First Things First: Who Can Revoke a Security Clearance? It depends on your employer. For example, the Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (DoDCAF) is the primary organization responsible for revoking the security clearances of federal DoD employees. Other agencies, such as the Department of Energy and the Department of State, have their own personnel security programs. If your security clearance has been revoked, then the name of the agency responsible for the decision will probably be listed on the revocation paperwork.  My Security Clearance Was Revoked. Now What? You do not have to simply accept your employer’s decision to revoke your security clearance. Federal law provides federal employees with the right to dispute revocation. In fact, you have two opportunities. When agencies suspect their employees of being untrustworthy, they often provide the employee with a “Notice of Intent to Revoke,” or NIR.  The NIR states that the employee’s security clearance is at risk. Furthermore, the NIR generally states why the agency intends to revoke the employee’s clearance. In addition, the NIR grants the employee the opportunity to plead their case to the agency before it makes the final revocation decision. You should take full advantage of this opportunity to provide favorable evidence. Many times, an employee can save their security clearance simply by taking thorough action at this stage. Make sure that you respond quickly, however, because NIRs give employees only a short window of time to act.  Even if the agency revokes your security clearance, you still have options. For one, if the revocation leads to removal, you can appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). However, the MSPB’s review of your agency’s decision is quite limited. The Board cannot assess the merits of the agency’s decision to revoke your security clearance.  Regardless of what stage you are in the security revocation process, it’s important to be proactive and thorough. In fact, your best course of action is to consult an attorney who has expertise with federal employment cases.  Do You Need Help Getting Your Security Clearance Back? The Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC is a law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of federal employees. We have represented many federal employees over the years, including in security revocation cases. Unlike most other law firms, our practice focuses specifically on federal employment law, which means we are familiar with all the unique aspects of government work. We will work with you to explore your options after your security clearance is revoked. In many cases, we can also assist you in appealing your agency’s decision to revoke your security clearance.  We recognize that hiring an attorney is a big decision. Yet we do not want you to let money keep you from contacting us. That’s why all our initial consultations are free. You have nothing to lose in setting up an appointment with us. So don’t wait. Contact us right away.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Can You Reapply for a Security Clearance If It Was Denied or Revoked?

Holding a security clearance is vital for almost every government position. As a result, experiencing a security clearance denial can be one of the worst possible things that can happen for a potential federal applicant. Likewise, current federal employees who have their security clearance revoked will almost inevitably lose their positions.  Because the stakes of a security clearance denial or revocation are so high, many people wonder whether reapplying for a security clearance is a possibility for them. Read on to learn more about whether those who have been denied a security clearance can reapply for one. Then consider reaching out to a qualified federal employment attorney to maximize your chances of success.  Can You Reapply After a Security Clearance Denial or Revocation? Yes. Time heals all things, including security clearance revocations. However, the exact reapplication procedures vary from one agency to another. For example, Department of Defense (DoD) regulations state that a security clearance applicant is barred from further reapplication for one year after their security clearance is denied. In addition, reapplicants must obtain a sponsor before reapplying for a security clearance.  Because sponsors will almost always be a corporation or other business, begin researching companies that might be willing to sponsor you. Lean on your professional contacts to find potential leads. Make sure that you are flexible with regard to the kind of position that you apply for at the sponsor company. If necessary, consider applying for an entry-level position just to get “your foot in the door” with a company that can sponsor you. In the long run, getting a security clearance will be more important to your career than your initial position at your sponsor company. What to Do Before You Reapply for a Security Clearance  While you wait to reapply, it is critical that you resolve all outstanding issues in your security clearance profile. Whenever your security clearance is denied or revoked, the team in charge of conducting security clearances investigations—such as the DoD’s Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF)—will state clearly the reasons for their decision. Maybe the reason for the denial revolves around your finances, past criminal behavior, drug use, or psychological issues. Whatever the reason, it’s critical that you address that area of your life without delay. If your security clearance was revoked because of your finances, pay down or resolve outstanding debts and reduce your expenses. If alcohol or drug use was the cause of the denial, enter a rehabilitation program or Alcoholics Anonymous. For personal problems, consider seeing a therapist or psychiatrist. Taking action now will greatly improve your chances of success. The Importance of Being Honest When you reapply for your security clearance, do not forget to be completely honest. One of the most common mistakes made by applicants is downplaying or omitting negative information in their applications. However, the government does not tolerate dishonesty. Even a little “white lie” can torpedo your reapplication chances, regardless of the strides you have made in addressing the problems of your original application.   Contact an Experienced Federal Employment Lawyer Today If your back is up against the wall because a federal agency denied or revoked your security clearance, then you need legal representation immediately.  The stakes of a security clearance reapplication are simply too high for you to represent yourself.  Let the Federal Employment Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC guide you through the reapplication process, build your case, and help you regain your livelihood. It is both our privilege and passion to work with people who want to serve their country, so we will do everything possible to help you get your security clearance.  Our firm has decades of experience in employment law, so we know how to help you succeed. Don’t gamble with your future by going it alone. Contact us online today or at (866)612-5956.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

A Federal Employee Lawyer Explains What a Workers’ Comp Causation Letter Is

Workers’ compensation (or “workman’s comp”) is a very familiar term for individuals in the workforce, but many only understand that term in regard to state rules. If you’re looking for help with a claim, many workers’ comp attorneys only handle work injury claims under state law. But If you’re a federal civilian employee who suffers injury at work, you must make your claim for benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).  Making a claim under FECA can be complicated, frustrating, and protracted. Enlisting the help of an experienced federal workers’ compensation attorney can reduce your frustration and help you win sorely needed benefits from FECA.  A large factor in winning many FECA claims is a workers’ compensation causation letter. We can help you understand what this is. But first, some background on how FECA claims work.  The Basics of a FECA Claim Federal civilian employees who suffer a traumatic injury or occupational disease because of work should report their injuries and seek medical treatment immediately. An injured worker then needs to file paperwork with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) to receive FECA benefits for their injury.  An injured employee has to prove to the OWCP that their work caused their injury before they can receive FECA benefits. In most cases, the employee needs to provide medical records to an OWCP Claims Examiner to do this. If the OWCP accepts the claim, the employee can receive benefits including:  Payment for medical bills; Compensation for wage losses; and Assistance with returning to work. This might seem simple on the surface, but the OWCP can make multiple requests for additional information before they make a decision, and you could still end up with a denial at the end.  What Does a Workers’ Compensation Causation Letter Do? The OWCP Procedure Manual states that if you didn’t suffer a “clear-cut” traumatic injury, you have to provide a rationalized medical opinion that proves your work caused your injury. This means that your physician might have to provide a lot of detail about what caused your injury and how.  A causation letter is a detailed letter from your physician that explains why they believe your work caused your injury. Your physician might provide this information at the beginning, a Claims Examiner might request this information, or you might need this information to appeal a claim denial. It could take several months before OWCP is satisfied with your evidence and makes an initial decision about your benefits. Consistently providing additional information and waiting that long for benefits can be harrowing when you’re dealing with an injury. A federal workman’s comp lawyer can handle your claim matters for you and help expedite the claim process.  Why Do I Need a Federal Workmen’s Compensation Lawyer for My FECA Claim? In general, workers’ compensation is a complicated and bureaucratic area of law. The process of filing a claim is even less user-friendly under FECA.  Workman’s Comp Lawyers Can Meet Stringent Evidence Requirements for FECA Claims Claims Examiners can require a lot of information before they make a decision. You might have to endure multiple rounds of information requests just to receive a Claims Examiner’s “yes” or “no.” A knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can compile and present the right evidence to help you get your benefits.  Workman’s Comp Attorneys Have the Skill and Time to Represent You in FECA’s Difficult Appeals System   When you imagine attending a hearing to fight for your workers’ compensation benefits, you probably imagine entering a nearby hearing office to plead your case. For many FECA claimants, this is not an option. Most hearings are only reviews of the written record or telephone conferences that are limited in time. Appeals also happen only through the OWCP or the Employees’ Compensation Appeal Board. With such constraints on your ability to present your case, you likely need a work compensation lawyer to effectively represent your position.  In-person appeal hearings are even more difficult to obtain. You should know that there are only 12 Federal Employees Program Offices in the country. There might not be an office anywhere near your state. Workers’ compensation attorneys have the opportunities and resources you don’t have to travel to these offices and skillfully represent your position in person.  Reach Out to an Attorney Today to Champion Your Rights When you need benefits for a serious work injury, you don’t want any opportunity to slip through the cracks. At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, we don’t let our injured clients’ opportunities pass them by. Our federal workers’ comp lawyers are experienced and passionate about protecting the rights of federal employees. If you need help, we hope you will contact us online or call us at 833-833-3529. We offer free consultations. 

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What is Federal Sick Leave Abuse

Federal employees may at times face the temptation to call in sick so they can have an unscheduled day off. Abuse of sick leave in the federal workplace is a serious issue that all federal employees should try to avoid. Sick leave abuse laws exist which can carry significant penalties for those who misuse their sick leave. There are also a few ways that supervisors can spot and investigate sick leave abuse by federal employees. If your supervisor has accused you of being a federal employee who’s committed sick leave abuse, contact a federal employee sick leave abuse lawyer right away.  When Is It Okay to Use Sick Leave? The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a federal agency that regulates the employment policies of most other federal  agencies, states that federal employees may use sick leave when they need to:  Attend to their own personal medical needs; Care for a family member with a serious health condition; Attend a funeral for a family member; or Carry out adoption-related activities.  OPM does not define what constitutes an abuse of sick leave. That said, it’s reasonable to assume that any use of sick leave for reasons other than those listed above could constitute “sick leave abuse,” especially if done repeatedly and within a short period of time.  Common signs of sick leave abuse are: Taking sick leave on a regular, periodic basis (like every other Friday); Taking excessive amounts of sick leave; and Providing little or no evidence supporting their alleged reason for taking sick leave. If an agency discovers that an employee is committing OPM sick leave abuse, the employee can face discipline. An employee can even face removal from federal service.  What Employers Can Do About Sick Leave Abuse While OPM does not define sick leave abuse, it does establish procedures for employers to require evidence from employees who request sick leave. Specifically, an agency may require “administratively acceptable evidence” before granting sick leave. The definition of “administratively acceptable evidence.” For example, if an employee requests sick leave to care for a family member, the agency may require that the employee provide proof of their relationship with the family member. If an employee claims sick leave to visit a doctor, the agency can request a doctor’s note that confirms the visit.  Do You Need a Federal Sick Leave Abuse Attorney? Accusations of sick leave abuse are no joke. If you have been accused of abusing sick leave, you could be counseled, reprimanded, suspended, or even removed from your job. So if your supervisor has accused you of sick leave abuse, you need to contact a sick leave abuse attorney immediately.  When looking for an attorney that can help you defend your rights, it’s absolutely essential that you select someone who has familiarity with your situation and the federal workplace.  At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing,  PLLC., we concentrate on representing federal employees and protecting their rights. Our firm has the experience needed to help federal employees who have been accused of misconduct. Even if you aren’t sure whether you need an attorney, it takes no time at all to contact us. All initial consultations are free, so don’t take any chances with your career. Contact us today.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Using CBD Oil as a Federal Employee – Is it Legal?

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is an increasingly popular product in the United States. People use CBD oil as a remedy for many mental and physical conditions. Others use CBD oil as a health supplement and as an ingredient in many food products. CBD oil can come from a part of the cannabis plant, the use of which is still illegal under federal law. Since 2016, there have been changes in the legality of CBD oil, and the current policy is evolving and complicated. Subsequently, many people are wondering: Can federal employees use CBD oil? The answer is that it depends. Specifically, it depends on the source of CBD oil and whether it contains psychoactive compounds. If your federal agency is trying to discipline you for using CBD oil, you need to contact a federal employment lawyer immediately.  Is CBD Oil Legal for Federal Employees? Before we dive into this issue, it’s critical to understand a few basic premises and definitions. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that currently remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and it is a product of the cannabis plant.  Another name for the cannabis plant is hemp.  However, under recent federal law, there is a critical difference between hemp and marijuana. While both hemp and marijuana traditionally referred to the same plant species (cannabis), the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) re-defined hemp as any cannabis plant that contains 0.3 % or less of the psychoactive substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the main active ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana, on the other hand, refers to a cannabis plant that contains over 0.3% of THC. While the Farm Bill made hemp legal in 2018, marijuana is still illegal.  CBD oil can come from both hemp and marijuana plants. Because federal law still prohibits marijuana, CBD oil from marijuana is illegal for federal employees to use. However, hemp-based CBD oil is not illegal for federal employees to use.  So, Can Federal Employees Use CBD Oil from Hemp? Technically, yes. Yet federal employees still need to be cautious about using hemp-based CBD oil. Although hemp contains virtually no THC, there may still be enough to result in a positive drug test. On top of that, many hemp products are not well regulated. This means you may unwittingly purchase CBD oil that is partially sourced from marijuana.  This has major implications if you are a federal employee in a testing-designated position (TDP). You could face discipline if you test positive for THC, even if it is an accidental result of using CBD oil. Just in 2019, for example, a federal agent for the Department of Homeland Security lost his job after testing positive for THC because he regularly used CBD oil for back pain.   Want to Learn More About Whether Federal Employees Can Use CBD Oil Or Not? Even if you are using hemp-based CBD oil, you can test positive for THC. And testing positive for THC can end your federal career and turn your life upside down.  If your federal agency is trying to fire you for testing positive for THC or for using CBD oil, you need to consult a federal employment attorney right away. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing,  PLLC., we are committed to protecting the rights of federal employees. We’ve helped hundreds of federal workers employees over the years with a wide variety of federal employment problems. Don’t risk your career by going unrepresented. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What Is Bullying Under Federal Law?

If you have suffered bullying in the workplace, you might be able to receive relief under federal law if the bullying has certain characteristics. As a federal employee, you can maintain a legal action for bullying if that bullying also qualifies as harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. If you are unsure if bullying at work is actionable, don’t resign yourself to the stress and fear, contact an experienced workplace bullying lawyer immediately for help. Is Workplace Bullying Illegal? It depends. Federal work bullying laws are really laws against harassment. Employment bullying qualifies as illegal harassment if it’s a condition to continue your employment or it’s severe and pervasive enough for a reasonable person to consider it hostile. Bullying cannot be illegal harassment unless it’s unwelcome conduct motivated by one of the following factors: Race, Color, Religion, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender identity, Pregnancy,  Age (if you are 40 or older), Disability, Genetic information, Family history, or Medical history. Your employer can be guilty of harassing you for being a member of a protected group mentioned above or for perceiving you to be a member of a protected group. Your employer can be liable for harassment committed by a supervisor, one of their agents, a co-worker, or a non-employee. You also don’t have to be the person harassed to maintain a legal action. If harassment of another person affects you, you could have a claim.  Can I Sue for Workplace Bullying? Yes. Legal action against workplace bullying is available to you if the bullying fits the definition of harassment under federal law. However, federal employees can bring workplace bullying lawsuits only after they have followed the steps to make an administrative complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office.  What Is the Procedure for Filing Workplace Bullying Complaints and Workplace Bullying Lawsuits? There are many steps on the way to filing a lawsuit against your employer for harassment. Suing for workplace bullying can be a complicated process, and a lawyer for workplace bullying can help you fulfill every step. Filing a Workplace Bullying Complaint If you are a federal employee, bullying in the workplace law requires that you first reach out to an EEO counselor at your employer’s agency within 45 days of suffering harassment. You can either take part in counseling or alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  If ADR or counseling doesn’t solve the problem, you can file a formal complaint with your agency’s EEO office. You have 15 days after receiving an EEO counselor’s filing notice to file a complaint.  The agency can either dismiss your complaint for procedural reasons, or conduct an investigation. The agency has 180 days to investigate. After investigating, the agency gives you a notice about asking for a hearing or issuing a decision about whether there was discrimination.  If you want a hearing, it is held before an administrative law judge. You have 30 days from the agency’s hearing notice to file for a hearing. You can request a hearing in writing or online. After the judge makes a decision, the agency gets 40 days to decide if they are going to grant you relief that the judge orders. This decision is called a final order.  If you don’t agree with the final order, you can request an appeal within 30 days. You can also ask for reconsideration of the appeal decision within 30 days. If you follow the procedure correctly, you have many chances to get justice against harassment. An experienced attorney for workplace bullying can preserve your rights at every level of the process.  Filing a Workplace Bullying Lawsuit Once you have been through the administrative complaint and appeals process, you can file a bullying-at-work lawsuit. There are a number of different times when you can file a lawsuit, depending on the situation. To file a lawsuit against your employer for violating laws against workplace bullying, you have to follow these timelines: You can file after 180 days have passed since filing your complaint, if there hasn’t been an agency decision or appeal; You must file within 90 days of receiving an agency decision on your complaint, if there hasn’t been an appeal; You can file after 180 days have passed since filing your appeal, if there hasn’t been an appeal decision; or You must file within 90 days of receiving an appeal decision. A workplace bullying attorney can determine if the time is right for you to file a lawsuit and champion your rights to a safe workplace in court. If you are curious about workplace anti-bullying laws by state, many of them are similar to the federal laws (though deadlines and procedures vary). But you must follow the federal procedures above if you are a federal employee.  Contact an Attorney for the Protection You Need Please remember that you don’t have to endure every hostile behavior at work to receive a paycheck. The workplace bullying lawyers at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC are experienced in federal employment law and dedicated to protecting federal employees’ rights. Contact us online or call us at 866-508-2158 for the guidance and protection you need.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What to Know About Secret Clearance After You Leave Your Federal Job

Certain federal jobs deal with sensitive information that requires a higher level of trust in the employee. To make sure only qualified people get these jobs, the government requires these employees to obtain some level of security clearance. But what happens to that secret clearance when you leave your job? More importantly, how long does secret clearance last? What Is Secret Clearance? The U.S. Government grants secret clearance, also called security clearance, to people who prove themselves trustworthy enough to have access to classified information. The government further divides secret clearance into different levels based on the sensitivity of the information involved in the job. Top secret clearance is the highest level, and grants cleared employees with the highest level of access. Confidential clearance is the lowest level, granting cleared employees the lowest level of access. Finally, secret clearance is in the middle. How Long Does a Secret Clearance Last? While employed as a contractor for a government agency dealing with classified information, your secret clearance will remain in effect indefinitely. However, this doesn’t mean it will never expire. Employees with secret clearances must undergo periodic reinvestigations to make sure they’re still eligible. The exact period between each reinvestigation varies based on the level of clearance you have. Five years for top secret clearance; Ten years for secret clearance; and Fifteen years for confidential clearance. Other reevaluations may occur at more random intervals to make sure secret clearance employees aren’t engaging in illegal conduct. When Does Secret Clearance Expire? Many federal employees wonder how long does a secret clearance last once they leave their federal job? Put simply, your security clearance “terminates” when you leave your federal job permanently. However, it’s important to understand that when your secret clearance terminates, it doesn’t disappear completely. Instead, a terminated secret clearance changes status from “active” to “current.” In other words, while you’re employed, you have an active secret clearance. When you leave that secret clearance “deactivates” and changes to current status. So when does it actually go away? Secret clearance expiration is two years from the time it “terminates” and becomes inactive. Can I Have My Secret Clearance Reactivated? While your secret clearance is in current status, you can reactivate it without going through the entire approval process. If you have any other clearances on top of your secret clearance, those may need to be re-obtained after a certain period of time. Generally, however, you can reactivate your secret clearance within two years. If My Secret Clearance Expires, Will It Be Easier to Obtain New Secret Clearance in the Future? No. Once your secret clearance expires, you will have to start the whole process over. That means filling out Standard Form 86 again and undergoing a background investigation before your new secret clearance will be granted. What Happens to My Secret Clearance If I Get Fired? You might think that getting fired means you automatically lose your secret clearance. However, this isn’t necessarily true. Remember that employment termination can happen for a variety of reasons, not all of which warrant immediate expiration of your secret clearance. For example, if you’re a government contractor, your contract may end, leading to your termination. In this case, you likely haven’t done anything to indicate that you’re untrustworthy or no longer eligible for secret clearance. On the other hand, if your termination involved any of the “Adjudicative Criteria” for security clearance eligibility, you’ll have any future attempts at secret clearance denied. The Adjudicative Criteria are a list of guidelines for determining eligibility for secret clearance, and include: Allegiance to the United States and any foreign influence that might affect you; Personal conduct, including sexual behavior and drug and alcohol use; Your psychological condition; Criminal conduct; and Your ability to handle protected information. You can view the full list of Adjudicative Criteria at the website from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Does My Secret Clearance Apply to Private-Sector Employment? Not necessarily. Although some private-sector jobs involve sensitive or confidential information, government security clearance only applies to positions working for the federal government. Accordingly, your clearance may still be useful if you switch to another government agency or go to work for a government contractor. If you apply for a position in the private sector, however, your security clearance won’t apply. Still Have Questions? Contact a Federal Employment Lawyer Today The Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing, PLLC, focuses on assisting federal employees in a wide range of issues. If you’re dealing with discrimination, worried about blowing the whistle, or need more information about your rights as a federal employee, we can help. We’ve helped hundreds of federal employees get their jobs back or stop discriminatory workplace behavior. Contact us today through our online form or by phone at (833) 833-3529 to schedule a free consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Filing Workers’ Comp for Stress and Anxiety—What Federal Employees Should Know

Most federal workers are familiar with the workers’ compensation program, operated by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). The OWCP allows for workers who suffer a work-related injury to obtain medical and income-replacement benefits while they are unable to work. What fewer people know, however, is that federal employees can also obtain workers’ compensation for mental health disorders as well. Read on to learn more about when you can get workers’ comp benefits for stress and anxiety. If your federal employment is responsible for causing or exacerbating a mental health condition, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, we proudly help government employees who were injured on the job obtain the benefits they need and deserve. With extensive experience handling a wide range of workers’ compensation cases, including many involving mental health diagnoses, the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing is well-equipped to effectively handle your claim. Stress and Anxiety in the Workplace Stress Stress is the body’s normal response to emotional or physical tension. In some cases, stress can help you overcome obstacles that you may not have otherwise been able to overcome. However, in larger amounts, stress can be detrimental to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. According to a recent survey done by the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers experience high levels of stress in the workplace. And roughly a quarter of all participants indicated that their job was the primary source of their stress. Of course, this may not come as news, as every job can occasionally be stressful. However, there is a point where the everyday stress of a job crosses the line and becomes something more damaging. Anxiety Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental health condition in which someone displays excessive anxiety or worry on most days, for a period of at least six months. Generalized anxiety disorder often seriously interferes with someone’s ability to live their life the way they intended. For example, common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include the following. Irritability, Drowsiness, Inattentiveness, Feeling on-edge, Muscle tension, and Sleep problems. Panic attacks are another form of anxiety disorder in which someone experiences unexpected periods of intense fear that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes. Symptoms of a panic attack include: Heart palpitations, Trembling, Shortness of breath, Sweating, Feelings of doom, and Feeling out of control. Panic attacks can be very scary and sometimes require immediate medical attention.  Can You Get Workers’ Compensation for Stress and Anxiety? Yes, federal workers can obtain workers’ compensation benefits for stress and stress-related conditions such as anxiety. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering filing an application for workers’ comp for stress and anxiety. If you have a diagnosis of anxiety, you will have an easier time obtaining benefits than if you are basing a workers’ compensation claim on stress alone. However, you will still need to show that your anxiety was either caused by your job or that your job exacerbated your existing case of anxiety. Applying for workers’ compensation benefits for stress is even trickier because there is often no diagnosis. When it comes to getting workers’ compensation for stress, consider the following questions. Is the stress severe? Regular, everyday stress is not the type of stress that the OWCP is concerned with. Stress is a normal part of almost every job, yet not everyone can rightfully file a workers’ comp stress claim. Thus, to be eligible, you must show that your occupational stress is severe, to the point where it is more than you can withstand. Is your job objectively stressful? If you find your job to be very stressful but your colleagues do not, you may have a harder time qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits. This is because you must show that your stress is objective to obtain benefits. This means that others in a similar situation experience the same level of stress. So, if you are particularly susceptible to the stressors of your workplace, you may have a harder time obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for stress. Is your stress job-related? To succeed in any workers’ comp claim, you must show that your injuries (physical or emotional) are related to your occupation. Stress is no exception. In fact, it is actually more difficult to prove stress is job-related because most people have other sources of stress in their life. For example, the OWCP may claim that your stress was caused by genetic factors or issues outside the workplace. Are You Suffering Severe Stress or Anxiety Related to Your Federal Employment? If you are a federal employee and are currently suffering from stress or anxiety, contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing for immediate assistance. At our federal workers’ compensation law firm, we represent federal employees in all types of work injury claims—including those involving mental health conditions such as stress and anxiety. Unlike many other local employment law firms, we represent only federal employees, giving us an unparalleled knowledge of the laws and regulations that govern our clients’ cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give us a call today. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

COVID-19 Paid Leave as a Federal Employee—What to Know

Since the COVID-19 Pandemic began last year, tens of millions of Americans have fallen sick with the disease. To help protect its workers and their families, the government has offered several benefits to federal workers who experience difficulties because of COVID-19.  If you’re one of the many federal employees with coronavirus, you’ve probably asked yourself, Do I get paid if I have COVID-19? The good news is that there is paid COVID-19 leave for federal workers who had the disease, been quarantined, or had to care for an ill family member. Take a moment to learn more about whether you are eligible for federal COVID-19 leave.  Is There Federal COVID-19 Leave? Yes. The latest effort to provide federal employees with leave began in March. At that time, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). ARPA included a provision that granted federal employees up to 15 weeks of emergency paid leave (EPL) under certain COVID-19-related circumstances. As outlined by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), employees can obtain COVID-19 leave if they meet one of eight qualifying circumstances. Here are several of those circumstances: The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; The employee is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or recovering after experiencing side effects from the vaccine;  The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine order that is based on COVID-19; The employee received advice from a doctor or other health care provider to quarantine due to COVID-19; The employee is caring for a family member who is subject to a COVID-19 quarantine order; or The employee is caring for their child because the child’s school or place of care is not open due to COVID-19.  To receive the paid sick leave, the employee must be unable to work at their office and unable to work from home because of the qualifying circumstance. Also, federal agencies cannot force any employee to use other forms of paid leave before requesting EPL.  Limitations of Federal COVID-19 Leave Under the American Rescue Plan Act Unlike regular paid sick leave, EPL has a monetary cap. An employee will receive 100% of their salary if that salary is less than $1,400 per week. EPL provides no compensation beyond that cap. Therefore, if you normally make $2,000 a week in your federal position, you’ll only receive $1,400 for each week you use EPL.  Also, there is a small window of time to use emergency paid leave. Employees can only use EPL between March 11 and September 30. 2021. Finally, the government set aside a limited amount of money—$570 million—to pay for emergency paid leave. If those funds run out before September 30, 2021, then you cannot receive EPL.  Who Processes EPL Claims? After you request EPL from your employer, they’ll decide whether or not to accept your request. Assuming they accept your claim, they will forward it to OPM for reimbursement. However, it may take time for OPM to resolve your claim because it processes EPL claims on a first-come, first-served basis. That’s one reason why it’s important to request EPL sooner rather than later.  What If I Had COVID-19 in 2020? You cannot request EPL if you had COVID-19 last year. Before passing ARPA, the government offered federal COVID-19 leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. After Congress passed the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, OPM released clarifying guidance for all federal agencies. According to that guidance, EPSLA gave employees up to 80 hours of paid leave if they were in quarantine, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or caring for a family member. EPSLA’s paid sick leave equaled 100% of the employee’s regular pay if the employee was in quarantine or had COVID-19 symptoms. Unlike EPL, EPSLA’s COVID-19 leave did not have a pay cap.  So Do I Get Paid If I Have COVID? Yes and no. There isn’t a law that gives COVID-19 payments specifically to federal employees. However, federal employees indirectly receive payments through EPL because it is paid leave. Moreover, any federal employee who made less than a certain amount of money ($75,000 for an individual or $150,000 for a couple) received stimulus checks earlier this year.  Is Your Employer Giving You the Federal COVID-19 Leave that You Deserve? Getting COVID-19 can be a devastating experience with long-lasting effects. Because of that, the new federal COVID-19 leave law grants you special rights for COVID-19-related situations. If your employer is denying you emergency paid leave or retaliating against you because of your sick leave request, they may be infringing on your rights.  At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wesing, PPLC., we work to help federal employees stand up for their rights. We have many years of experience assisting hundreds of federal employees with a huge range of federal employment problems. If you think your employer is violating your rights, contact us online or call (833) 833-3529 for a free initial consultation today. Don’t wait. Let us help you!

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