| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Are Title 38 Veterans Affairs Employees Considered Federal Employees?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is an agency of the federal government. This means that all veterans affairs employees are, strictly speaking, employees of the federal government.  However, unlike employees in other departments, such as the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy, many VA employees fall under two unique personnel systems that distinguish them from other federal employees. These systems are referred to as “Title 38” and “Hybrid Title 38.” VA employees under these federal code titles lack most of the benefits and privileges that most other federal employees enjoy but do have other rights unique to them. These differences can have a tremendous impact on your work schedule, pay, leave amount, and appeal rights.  Are VA Employees Federal Employees? Yes and no. VA employees are federal employees in the sense that they work for the federal government. Virtually all employees of the federal government are covered by Title 5 of the United States Code, as are many VA employees. Title 5 defines all the distinctive benefits of federal employment, including the General Schedule (GS) and Executive Schedule (ES) pay scales, working conditions, and holidays. Although some VA employees, generally those in medical positions, work for a federal agency, many of them do not work in Title 5 positions. Instead, the VA has its own unique hiring system for medical professionals called Title 38. To give you a better sense of how this applies, it makes sense to run over the differences between Title 38 and Title 5. Title 38 vs. Title 5: Similarities and Differences  Under Title 38, all employees must serve a two-year probationary period. Title 5 employees, on the other hand, need to serve only a one-year probationary period at the VA. Title 38 employees also possess a distinctive pay schedule compared to Title 5 employees. Unlike Title 5 employees, different Title 38 professions receive different pay ranges. The basic pay of some Title 38 employees (like nurses and chiropractors) is roughly comparable to their GS colleagues. But Title 38 physicians and dentists can earn far more than their Title 5 peers. For instance, a VA staff physician can earn up to $243,000, whereas Title 5 employees can earn no more than 176,300 under 2022 pay limits. That fact aside, both Title 38 and Title 5 receive locality pay to compensate them for the different standards of living that exist across the country.  One significant difference between Title 38 and Title 5 employees is their respective work schedules. Almost all Title 5 employees work a normal 40-hour workweek. And like private sector counterparts, Title 5 employees work between roughly 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. But many Title 38 employees— like dentists, physicians, optometrists, and chiropractors—need to be available 24/7. Both Title 38 and Title 5 positions can be full-time, part-time, intermittent, and temporary. Finally, Title 38 employees generally do not have the right to appeal an adverse employment action to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) like Title 5 employees. They do, however, have appeal rights through a hearing before the Disciplinary Appeals Board (DAB).  Do All VA Positions Under Title 38? Not at all. Title 38 primarily applies to professional medical positions in the VA, including registered nurses (RNs), physician assistants (PAs), and optometrists. To receive an appointment, Title 38 applicants must first have their qualifications reviewed by their peers via a Professional Standards Board (PSB). Assuming the PSB finds the applicant has the necessary qualifications for the role, a designated management official approves the appointment.  On the other hand, Title 5 covers almost all VA employees in nonmedical occupations. These Examples include program analysts, human resources specialists, police officers, and attorneys.  Hybrid Title 38 Employees To make things even more complicated, some VA employees fall under Title 38 for some purposes and under Title 5 for other aspects of employment. The VA refers to these employees as “Hybrid Title 38” employees. Hybrid Title 38 occupations include: Respiratory therapists, Vocational nurses, Psychologists, Occupational therapists, and Pharmacists. Hybrid Title 38 employees fall under Title 38 for matters like appointment, promotion, and some pay matters. Yet they are categorized under Title 5 when it comes to things like performance appraisals, leave, work schedule, and retirement benefits. And like Title 5 employees, hybrid employees serve one-year probationary periods. If you want to learn more about hybrid employees, it’s best to contact a qualified federal employment or veterans affairs attorney.  Who Do Department of Veteran Affairs Employees Report to? Whether they fall under Title 5 or Title 38, VA employees report to their designated supervisors. But as mentioned before, employees who are Title 5 can expect to see more involvement from their peers when they join the VA or apply for a promotion.   Do You Want to Know More About Your Rights as a Title 5 or Title 38 Veterans Affairs Employee? Give Us a Call Today.  Regardless of whether you are a Title 5, Title 38 or Hybrid Title 38 employee, you have rights. And those rights deserve to be defended. If you think your agency has violated your rights, you need to contact an experienced attorney right away. However, it is vital you search for an attorney that specializes in federal employment and VA matters. You should also look for an attorney with a track record of success and positive client reviews.  Our capable federal employment attorneys at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC have all those qualities. We have decades of collective experience representing federal employees and defending their rights. Regardless of your situation, personnel system, or occupation, we believe that you deserve outstanding legal representation. Our firm has obtained amazing results for our clients, and they are more than happy to discuss the differences we’ve made in their lives. Don’t wait another moment. Pick up the phone today and call us at 866-612-5956 to set up a free initial appointment. You can also reach out online to set up an appointment.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What Is the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998

Congress passed the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA) in 1998 to reward veterans for their service in the armed forces. Specifically, VEOA grants veterans a hiring preference, making it easier for them to get jobs in the civilian service. It provides certain retention benefits as well. VEOA also gives veterans who are federal employees or applicants for federal positions the right to challenge a violation of their rights. VEOA applies to virtually all agencies and positions within the federal government, but most people know little about it. If you are a veteran currently working for the federal government or applying for a federal position, understanding veterans’ preference and your legal rights as a veteran is vital.   VEOA: Understanding the Basics To understand veterans’ preference under VEOA, it is best to review how government hiring works. There are several services within the federal government: the Competitive Service (CS), the Excepted Service (ES), and the Senior Executive Service (SES). Each service has its own process for reviewing and appointing employment candidates. The CS includes most civil service positions in the executive branch of the federal government. For CS positions, individuals must undergo a multi-layered competitive examination process. Generally, the CS hiring process includes a written test, an evaluation of the individual’s education and experience, and an interview. The ES refers to several positions that do not use the same competitive process as CS positions. Examples include government attorneys and certain other professional roles. Finally, there is the SES, which encompasses high-ranking members of government who typically serve in leadership roles.  VEOA gives veterans’ preference for all CS and ES positions, as well as most SES positions. Veterans’ preference is expressed as a 0 to 10 point addition to any passing examination score or employment rating. Veterans’ preference does not apply to promotions, reassignments, or transfers. Many people often confuse the VEOA with the Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA), but the two have significant differences.  Who Qualifies for Veterans’ Preference Under VEOA? Any person with an honorable discharge or general discharge from one of the branches of the armed forces can receive veterans’ preference. Covered branches include the Army, Navy, Space Force, Air Force Force, Marine Corp, and Coast Guard. In most cases, a person must have served at least 24 months before they are eligible to receive veterans’ preference.  Most retirees below the rank of O-4 (Major/Lieutenant Commander) can receive veterans’ preference. Those who retired at the rank of O-4 or higher do not receive preference unless they have a disability. Although veterans’ preference was originally aimed at those who had served in an active war, it now applies to potentially anyone who served in the armed forces. The Point System Under VEOA There are three levels of veterans’ preference under VEOA: zero-point, five-point, and ten-point. The zero-point preference is reserved for someone who receives a “sole survivorship discharge.” A sole survivorship discharge is when a military member asks to leave the military because they are the only surviving child of their family.  Any non-disabled veteran who served honorably can receive a five-point preference. The highest level of veterans’ preference applies to any veteran (or family member) who has a service-connected disability or a purple heart.  VEOA vs. VRA It is easy to confuse VEOA with VRA, but the two operate in different ways. The VEOA grants veterans a small preference in hiring matters. By contrast, the VRA is a special hiring authority that grants agencies the ability to appoint veterans without any kind of competitive process. In other words, the applicant can get the job without needing to take any test or attend any interview.  Just like the VEOA, there are a few requirements a person must meet to be eligible for a VRA position. First, the candidate must meet all basic qualification requirements for the position. Second, the candidate must be: A disabled veteran, A veteran who served on active duty in a war that Congress declared, A participant in a campaign or expedition that had an authorized campaign badge, or A veteran who separated from active duty within the past three years.  Unlike the VEOA, there is no service requirement. And the VRA applies only to some ES positions. It does not apply to CS or SES positions. Lastly, the VRA position must be at the GS-11 level or lower.  Want to Learn More About Veterans’ Preference? Contact a Skilled Federal Employment Attorney Today It’s only fair to recognize veterans for their sacrifice and service to the country. Yet understanding how the VRA and VEOA apply to federal positions is complicated. While you may understand the basics of VRA and VEOA, it is more difficult to evaluate whether your employment application was treated fairly. Hiring managers can easily misapply veterans’ preference or even consciously ignore it. When that happens, you have rights under the law.  Here at the Federal Employment Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, our team is passionate about defending the rights of veterans. We want all veterans to have a fair chance at federal employment, and we have years of experience protecting veterans in multiple legal forums. On top of that, we have a proven track record of success and a stellar reputation amongst our clients.  Even if you aren’t sure you have a case, contact us and set up a free initial appointment. Don’t miss your opportunity to get your federal dream job. Give us a call at 866-612-5956 or get in touch with us online. 

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Absence Without Leave (AWOL)

AWOL, an acronym meaning “absence without official leave,” is a non-pay status that is used for absences that are not approved by management. It is also a common charge of discipline within the federal government. Note though that AWOL is not in and of itself discipline, although it may lead to discipline. A charge of AWOL can result in a reprimand, suspension, or even removal from the federal service. Being charged with AWOL is a serious matter. But it need not be the end of your career. If your agency has charged you with AWOL, it’s imperative you find a qualified federal employment law to help represent you and defend your rights, especially if disciplinary action is proposed or imposed.  What Does AWOL Mean? Again, AWOL means “absence without leave” or “absent without official leave.” As with any other job, showing up for work on time is an essential requirement for federal employment. There is no minimum time requirement for AWOL. Although more accommodating managers may cut an employee slack for ten or fifteen minutes late, even a five-minute absence can lead to a charge of AWOL. Several other situations can lead to a charge of AWOL: Going on leave without submitting a leave request with a supervisor; Going on leave even though the leave request was denied; Showing up late to work; Failing to report at the scheduled time; Leaving work early; Taking an extended period of medical leave without providing medical documentation.  What Are the Elements of an AWOL Charge? If a federal agency wants to use AWOL as a basis for discipline, it must prove two key points of AWOL charge. #1: The federal employee was absent from work As we mentioned earlier, there are a variety of circumstances that can lead to an employee being absent. Consequently, it is often relatively easy for an employer to prove this part of the charge. But you can contest this point by providing evidence that you were at your place of work during the time period in dispute.  #2: The federal employee’s absence was not authorized Federal managers have the right to deny personal leave requests for legitimate reasons. However, they cannot refuse your leave for discriminatory reasons or for retaliatory reasons. Supervisors can also revoke their authorization of a leave request, but it also must be for appropriate reasons. It is not unheard of for retaliatory managers to grant an employee leave, revoke it at the last minute, and then try to charge an employee AWOL. If you think your leave was revoked because you made a complaint, you may be eligible for compensation. A qualified employment attorney can help you demonstrate the connection between your protected activity and any retaliatory activity (including the cancellation of leave).  What Is the Standard of Proof in an AWOL Case? The phrase “standard of proof” refers to the level of evidence the government needs to have to succeed in its case against the federal employee. There are four standards of proof: Beyond a reasonable doubt; Clear and convincing evidence;  Preponderance of the evidence; and Substantial evidence.  The “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof is the most stringent standard and is not used in administrative charges like this. The “substantial evidence” standard is the easiest standard for a party to meet. For most disciplinary actions against federal employees, the “preponderance of the evidence standard” applies. To meet a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, the government provides enough evidence to show the judge that there is a greater than 50% chance that the alleged misconduct—a period of AWOL, for example—actually occurred.  Defenses to AWOL Charges There are a few common defenses employees can assert to AWOL charges. First, the employee can allege that the government’s charge is based on some kind of discrimination. The law prohibits many kinds of discrimination in the federal workplace, including discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, and disability. At first glance, you may not think that any of these apply to you. However, it is helpful to take a moment to consider whether any of your colleagues have been in your situation. For example, do you know a colleague of a different race who showed up late to work one day but was not charged with AWOL? Has your supervisor treated you worse than other colleagues of a different sexual orientation or gender? Are you charged AWOL every time you ask for leave to see your doctor for medical appointments? Think carefully—workplace discrimination can often show up in subtle ways.  What If My Supervisor Marked Me as AWOL for Being on Active Military Duty? Many federal employees are veterans of the armed forces. Some of these veterans retire before they enter federal service. Others are reservists. The law prohibits federal employers from discriminating against a reservist because of their reserve duty requirements. Similarly, if a federal employee who is also a reservist is called into active duty, they cannot be marked as AWOL. If your supervisor marked you as AWOL after you were ordered to active military duty, you might be able to sue them for military discrimination.  What Are My Rights If I Have Been Charged with AWOL? Most private-sector employees have few due process rights. This means their employer is free to punish them without notice and without providing them any opportunity for rebuttal or defense.  Thankfully, United States Code guarantees federal employees due process once they complete their probationary period. As a result, your employer generally cannot simply fire you or punish you for being AWOL. Instead, they generally have to provide you with: A notice of proposed adverse action at least 30 days before the proposed punishment; A detailed description of the charges and the alleged conduct; An opportunity to review the evidence against you and the materials they relied on in charging you with AWOL; and A meaningful opportunity to reply in writing or orally to a deciding official.  Without these protections, any adverse action taken against you...

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Employment Law

A Guide to the Hatch Act for Federal Employees

The executive branch of the federal government and its numerous employees need to work for the benefit of all Americans. Therefore, federal employees need to maintain an appearance of political impartiality within the workplace. To help employees be impartial, Congress passed the Hatch Act of 1939. The Hatch Act places several limitations on the kinds of political activities federal employees can engage in. Running afoul of these limitations is serious and is grounds for discipline. So if you are aware of a Hatch Act violation, you should report it to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). However, reporting a Hatch Act violation may lead to retaliation, so make sure you contact a knowledgeable employment law attorney first.  What is the Hatch Act? The Hatch Act is a law that aims to keep the din of partisan politics out of the federal workplace. At the same time, it tries to protect federal employees’ first amendment rights.  Unlawful Activities Under the Hatch Act Covered Hatch Act employees cannot do any of the following: Run for office in a partisan political election. However, federal employees can be candidates in non-partisan elections. Many local positions, like sheriff or judge, are nonpartisan.  Solicit or discourage the political activity of any person doing business with the government. In other words, federal employees need to keep politics out of their dealings with business partners of the government.  Invite subordinates to engage in partisan political activity or attend political events. Obviously, this prohibition applies to supervisors. Whatever their personal relationship with their subordinates, supervisors must avoid suggesting or recommending they go to political rallies or vote for a particular candidate.  Use their official authority to interfere with an election. For instance, military commander should not use their power to shut down a polling station.  Ask for, accept, or receive political contributions. There is a very narrow exception to this rule, but employees must meet several conditions to enjoy this exception. One requirement is that both employees be in the same labor organization. Engage in political activity while on duty, in the workplace, or in a government vehicle. Political activity includes things like wearing partisan political clothing, making political contributions, and doing campaign-related tasks. While these prohibitions apply to most employees, some types of federal employees face additional restrictions. Examples include career senior executive service (SES) employees and administrative law judges (ALJs).  Acceptable Activities Under the Hatch Act Despite these limitations, you can still do many political activities under the Hatch Act. Some of these activities include: Registering to vote and voting in partisan elections—You can vote for any person you like, even if that person is an independent or belongs to a third party.  Helping with voter registration drives—Merely encouraging people to vote does not mean they have to support a political party.  Joining and serving in partisan political groups—This means your co-worker Bob can participate in the local Democratic Party group as long as he does not ask you to join him. Attending political rallies and political meetings—This includes local town-hall meetings, candidate rallies, and even partisan presidential conventions.  Making speeches for or against candidates in a partisan election—Keep in mind, though, that you can only do this outside of the federal workplace.  Expressing your opinions about political issues—You can express your opinions about non-partisan opinions even in the workplace.  Expressing your opinions about partisan political issues or candidates—Unlike non-partisan issues, you cannot carry out this activity if you are at work or using your official authority.  This list is not exhaustive. So you may still be able to carry out some political activities, especially when you are not on duty. If you want to learn more about what the Hatch Act allows, ask a federal employment lawyer.  Which Federal Employees Does the Hatch Act Cover? The Hatch Act applies to federal employees working for the executive branch of the U.S. government. This includes the vast majority of federal employees. Just a few of the many executive branch agencies are: The Department of Defense, The Department of Education, The Department of Energy, The Department of Agriculture, and   The Environmental Protection Agency The Hatch Act does not cover employees working for the legislative or judicial branches. But it can be difficult to know which branch of government is served by which agencies. A few agencies that fall under the legislative branch are: The Government Accountability Office The Copyright Office The Congressional Budget Office The Library of Congress The House of Representatives The Senate The U.S. Capitol Police Examples of judiciary branch agencies and organizations include: All federal courts The U.S. Sentencing Commission The Federal Judicial Center The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts Despite these exceptions, a good rule of thumb is to assume that you are covered by the Hatch Act.  Interested in Learning More About the Hatch Act? Every two to four years, the Hatch Act becomes a hot issue within the federal workplace. During those times, it can be difficult to learn about what is acceptable under the law. And on top of that, there are all kinds of misinformation and misunderstandings about the Hatch Act. If you would like to learn more about what you can do under the Hatch Act, you need to consult a good attorney.  Our team at the Federal Employment Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC is standing by to help you. We want you to be able to exercise your political rights freely. We can also help you if your supervisor or another bad actor is violating the Hatch Act. With our team, you can rest assured you will get top-notch legal advice. Reach out today by calling us at (833) 833-3529 or contacting us online.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What Are My Rights as a Federal Employee if I Am Facing Suspension?

No federal employee ever imagines that they’ll face a possible suspension. Not only is it a black mark on your record, but it can also deprive you of pay for days, weeks or even months. And in most situations, a proposed suspension catches you completely off-guard. Employee suspension laws are complex, so you may not know where to turn. However, if you’re facing a suspension, there’s no need to panic or just give in without a fight. As a federal employee, you have rights. Take a moment to learn more about federal employee rights in the workplace. After that, consult an experienced federal employment attorney at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC right away to learn about your options.  A Federal Employee’s Rights in the Workplace A federal employee facing any punishment (including suspension) is protected by several laws that guarantee their right to due process. Depending on the length of the proposed suspension, a federal employee may receive additional rights. Under federal employee suspension laws, there are two kinds of actions a federal agency can take against its employees: disciplinary actions and adverse actions. Disciplinary actions include less serious punishments like: Oral or written counseling, Letters of reprimand, Letters of warning, and Suspensions of 14 days or less. On the other hand, adverse actions refer to more serious punishments, like suspensions of 15 days or longer, demotions, and removals. Because the “stakes” are higher for an employee facing an adverse action, the law grants them additional employee suspension rights to protect their careers.  Rights for Employees Facing Shorter Suspensions If you are facing a suspension of fewer than 14 days, then you have the right to know why the federal agency is taking action against you. In the letter proposing your suspension, the agency needs to include a specific charge (like insubordination, inappropriate conduct, etc.). Next, It must include a detailed description of the circumstances surrounding your alleged wrong behavior, like when and where it happened. Furthermore, you have the right to receive a copy of the evidence that your employer is relying on to propose your suspension.  You have other rights as well, like the right to respond to the proposal letter. To respond, you can choose to submit a written response and/or meet with the deciding official and provide a verbal response. Finally, you have the right to legal representation. Your representative can be a friend, colleague, union representative, or attorney.  Rights for Employees Facing Longer Suspensions Federal law considers suspensions of more than 14 days to be adverse actions. That means that a federal employee facing a 15-day suspension has even more rights than an employee facing a 5-day suspension.  In addition to the rights that we just discussed, federal employees facing longer suspensions have the right to receive advance notice of the suspension. If you are facing a longer suspension, your agency needs to notify you of the proposed suspension at least 30 days before it begins. They must also allow you to work without any interruption before and after the proposed suspension. Your agency must give you a longer period—at least seven days—to respond to the adverse action. Finally, if your agency actually suspends you, you can appeal the suspension to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).  Don’t Wait. Contact an Attorney Right Away As you can see, a federal employee facing suspension has several rights. However, if you are facing a suspension of any length, it’s critical that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. A skilled federal employment attorney can help you craft your response, analyze the government’s evidence, and determine if there were any illegal or discriminatory motivations behind the suspension. They can also help you negotiate with your employer, plead your case before a judge, and even obtain compensation if your rights were violated.   With the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, you can enjoy unparalleled client representation. We delight in standing up for our clients and making sure they receive only the best treatment. Additionally, Mr. Wersing has a tremendous amount of experience protecting federal employees’ rights.  Thanks to his experience and dedication, our clients are more than happy to share their success stories. Employee suspension rights is an area we focus us, so let us help you defend your rights and protect your federal career. Call us at 833-833-3529 to set up a free case review. You can also schedule an appointment online.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

How to Report an Abuse of Authority in the Federal Workplace

We’ve all had bad supervisors in our careers. Yet sometimes the behavior of a supervisor can cross the line into illegal behavior. Abuse of authority is one of several personnel practices that are banned completely from the federal workplace by U.S. law.  Understanding how to distinguish between legal and illegal behavior isn’t necessarily easy, however. Read on to learn more about the abuse of authority in the workplace, including its definition and several examples. If you or a loved one think you are dealing with abuse of authority in the workplace, contact a knowledgeable federal employment attorney today.  Abuse of Authority: Definition Most people understand that it is illegal for a federal employee or supervisor to abuse their authority. But what is “abuse of authority”? The definition of “abuse of authority” is an “arbitrary and capricious exercise of authority that is inconsistent with the mission of the executive agency concerned.” That definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation. As you’ll see below, abuse of authority can take many different forms.  Abuse of Authority: Possible Real-Life Examples   To help give you a better understanding of what abuse of authority can look like, consider these hypothetical examples:  Your supervisor makes fun of or humiliates you or a co-worker in front of your colleagues. A subordinate in the budget office uses their monetary authority to buy themselves office supplies or better computer equipment. Your boss passes you over for promotion and promotes your co-worker instead because they are good friends outside of work. Your colleague uses an official work vehicle to do a few personal errands and get lunch.  A manager repeatedly yells and screams at a contractor for the agency. No matter what form it takes, abuse of authority is a serious problem. It can destroy the culture of an office or workspace, crush employee morale, increase turnover, and lead to fraud and corruption. That means it needs to be reported and resolved immediately.  What Should I Do to Report Abuse of Authority? If you suspect someone in the federal workplace of abuse of authority, you should consider reporting their behavior to a trusted supervisor, human resources specialist, or your agency’s Office of the Inspector General. If you can’t think of anyone that you can trust in your agency, you can also file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC.)  It is only fair to be nervous about blowing the whistle on your boss or colleague. But the good news is that the law protects you against retaliation once you file a complaint or report about an abuse of authority. You should also strongly consider getting legal counsel. Don’t Fight the Battle Alone. Let Us Help You Defend Your Rights While the law protects you against retaliation, it can be overwhelming to file a lawsuit against your federal agency. This is especially true when you have to cope with stress, anxiety, and mental trauma. For that and many other reasons, you should consult an attorney. A qualified attorney will be able to assess your case, help you weigh your options, and maximize your chances of winning your case.  At the Federal Employment Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, our team of specialists is familiar with virtually every kind of federal workplace issue. Mr. Wersing has represented countless federal employees, and he is dedicated to protecting his clients’ rights. Together, we can help you get your life back on track and hold the abuser of authority accountable. Call us at 833-833-3529 or schedule an appointment online.

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| 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 at the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC immediately.  Working While Pregnant: Relevant Federal 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. Contact a Federal Workplace Discrimination Lawyer Today 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: 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: 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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