| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Federal Employees & Working Remote

The COVID-19 pandemic started a revolution in how people carried out their work. That revolution extends to the federal government. Federal employees working from home or seeking remote work arrangements are the front-line soldiers of this change. However, changes are occurring so rapidly that it’s difficult to stay ahead of all the developments.Fortunately, our team at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing, PLLC, works hard to maneuver through these evolving environments. Our objective is for every federal employee to understand their rights, responsibilities, and opportunities regarding remote work. We’ll cover these issues in this piece. If you have additional questions or are one of the many federal employees seeking remote work, give one of our quality federal employment attorneys a call today.  What Is Remote Work, and How Does It Differ from Telework? Remote work is a permanent working arrangement where you work on a full-time basis from an alternative work site rather than an office or traditional workplace. Generally, the remote work location is your home. In a remote work arrangement, your agency cannot require you to report to the traditional worksite on any regular or recurring basis. Furthermore, your remote workplace doesn’t have to be in the local commuting area of your agency’s traditional office.  By contrast, telework is a flexible work arrangement where you can perform your duties from an approved alternate worksite, usually on a part-time basis. While you can still use your home as your alternate telework worksite, you have to remain within the local commuting area of the agency’s main office.  Are There Remote Work Benefits for Employees in the Federal Government? Absolutely. Remote work offers several benefits for federal employees. These include increased flexibility, reduced commuting time and costs, and a better work-life balance. In addition, it allows employees to design a work environment tailored to their personal productivity preferences. Consequently, remote work employees usually enjoy enhanced job satisfaction and efficiency compared to their teleworking and in-office counterparts. That said, remote work is not a universal benefit or right for all federal employees. Its availability varies from one agency to another. Agencies can also remove existing remote work arrangements for valid business considerations.  Which Federal Agencies Allow Remote Work? If you want to learn more, you can visit the website of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Remote work for federal employees and related frequently asked questions are discussed in detail on their site. But generally, many federal agencies have embraced remote work to some degree or another, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, not all positions or offices have the same liberal attitude toward remote work. Agencies retain the discretion to decide whether to offer remote work options and determine employee eligibility according to performance and operational needs. Due to the quickly changing nature of the attitude toward remote work, there isn’t an exhaustive list of agencies that offer it. You should contact an agency’s human resources department to obtain the most up-to-date information.  Can I Request Remote Work As a Reasonable Accommodation? Yes. Federal employees can request remote work as a reasonable accommodation under certain circumstances. First, you must have a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Second, you need to show that remote work would help you perform the core duties of your essential position with your limitations. Third, you will have to produce adequate medical documentation to support the need for accommodation. Finally, you must be ready to engage in an interactive process with your employer to determine if remote work is feasible for your agency.  Have More Questions About Remote Work? Give Us a Call Today. As the federal workforce continues to adapt to the increasing demand for flexibility and remote work opportunities, federal employees need to stay informed about their rights and the policies governing this type of work within their agencies. Whether you’re exploring the possibility of remote work as a reasonable accommodation or seeking to understand more of the rules surrounding remote work, the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing, PLLC, is here to guide you. Our expertise in federal employment law positions us to provide unparalleled advice and support as you explore your legal options. Furthermore, we can represent you in a variety of legal situations if your employer violates your rights. Set up an initial consultation with us today by calling us or reaching out online. 

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Whistleblower Claims

Is Nepotism Illegal in the Federal Workplace?

The word “nepotism” refers to favorable treatment towards an individual in the workplace because of their familial connection. Few people know what nepotism looks like, and even fewer know about the legality of nepotism in the federal workplace. This is completely understandable, given that nepotism is not as well-known as race or age discrimination.  Nonetheless, it’s vital you understand the truth about nepotism because it can have destructive effects on your career.  Clients occasionally ask us, Is nepotism illegal in the workplace? The answer is yes. In this article, we’ll discuss the official definition of nepotism, as well as the applicable federal employee nepotism laws that prohibit it. If you think you or a loved one are experiencing nepotism, contact our talented federal employment attorneys today.  Nepotism: Definition and Applicable Federal Employee Nepotism Laws The word nepotism originates from the Latin word for nephew. 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b) defines nepotism as the appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement of any individual who is a relative to a civilian position within the federal government. 5 U.S.C. § 3110(a)(3) defines a relative as any of the following:  Although grandparents and grandchildren are technically left out of this definition, advocating for appointing them to a federal position would likely run afoul of ethics regulations.  The chief law that applies to nepotism is the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which is the foundational law for the modern federal civil service. However, it is also prohibited by 5 C.F.R. § 2635. This statute outlines the standards of ethical conduct for federal employees. Finally, 18 U.S.C. § 208 renders nepotism a criminal act in situations where a federal official participates in a matter in which they have a personal financial interest. Is Nepotism Illegal in Government Workplaces?  To put it simply, yes. Nepotism is indeed illegal in government workplaces. The laws and regulations are clear and firm in their stance against the practice. This prohibition aims to uphold the integrity of the federal civil service. It further attempts to guarantee that employment decisions are predicated on a person’s merit and qualifications rather than their familial connections.  It’s also worth noting that nepotism is a prohibited personnel practice. That means that any employee who witnesses nepotism in a government space can file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Filing a complaint makes you a federal whistleblower and protects you from any act of retaliation.  Nepotism vs. Cronyism People often confuse nepotism with its equally shady cousin, cronyism. While they’re branches of the same unsavory tree, there are subtle differences between them. Let’s briefly explore the differences. Nepotism As we discussed earlier, nepotism is all about family. It takes place when someone in a position of authority in a federal workplace gives preferential treatment to their relatives. One example would be hiring your brother for a role he’s not quite cut out for. Another example would be promoting a cousin over more qualified candidates. It’s the family ties that bind in nepotism. Cronyism Instead of family, cronyism is all about friends and associates. Cronyism occurs when someone in power favors friends or acquaintances, offering them jobs or promotions because of their personal relationships rather than their qualifications. We’ve all heard the old adage, It’s not what you know, but who you know. Cronyism would be the extreme version of that adage coming to life. Yet while American legal and ethical standards have always frowned upon nepotism, cronyism has been somewhat more common in this nation’s history. Nonetheless, cronyism is unacceptable under federal ethics standards. Are You Witnessing Nepotism In Your Federal Workplace? Take a Stand with the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC.  Whether it takes the form of nepotism or cronyism, favoritism has no place in the federal workplace. Only a person’s merit and performance at work should control their position in the government. If you think you might be a witness to nepotism in your workplace, take action today.  Before you take action, it’s prudent to consult with a federal employment attorney. They can help you make sense of what you’re experiencing, confirm whether the behavior is nepotism, and present you with your legal options. If necessary, a federal employment attorney can help you prepare and file a complaint with the OSC to correct the situation.  Don’t just trust any law firm to represent you. Instead, go with a firm that is deeply knowledgeable about federal employment issues. The team at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC, only practices federal employment law. We won’t make rookie mistakes like other firms. Instead, you can rely on us to provide top-notch legal representation and first-rate customer service. Call us today or reach out to us on our website to set up your initial consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

How Do I Find a Federal Employment Lawyer Who Will Work on Contingency?

Cost is the biggest factor for most people when they’re looking for an attorney. Fortunately, the days of all attorneys charging an hourly rate have changed. Now, some attorneys use bundled services or flat fees for specific services. Other attorneys offer an alternative payment scheme called the contingency fee. If a federal employment attorney works on contingency, then you don’t need to pay them unless you prevail in your case.  If you’re a federal employee looking for employment lawyers who work on contingency, then you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn about how contingency fees work. Then give one of our outstanding attorneys at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC a call today.   What Does It Mean for a Federal Employment Attorney to Work for a Contingency Fee? When a federal employment attorney works for a contingency fee, it means their payment for legal services is contingent upon the successful resolution of your case. In plain English, the attorney receives money only if they win the case or secure a favorable settlement for you. This contrasts with traditional hourly billing, where attorneys charge for the time they spend on a case. Here’s how a contingency fee arrangement typically works: Generally, the attorney will receive somewhere between 25% and 40% of your award or settlement. The exact amount depends on the attorney’s experience, the applicable laws of the state, and the circumstances of your case.  Do Employment Lawyers Work on Contingency? Relatively few employment lawyers work for a contingency fee. There are a few reasons for this phenomenon. For one, many of the applicable laws governing federal employment law limit the amount of compensation you can receive. For instance, clients can generally only recover $300,000 in compensatory damages in employment discrimination cases. Victims of age or sex discrimination cannot recover either compensatory or punitive damages. Because of these limitations on your recovery, many lawyers find it more profitable to simply charge an hourly rate.  Another reason is that prevailing parties in federal employment discrimination cases can obtain attorney’s fees from their employers fairly easily. Thus, clients who pay their attorneys on an hourly basis can receive compensation for their legal costs if they win their case.  Looking for Federal Employment Lawyers Who Work on a Contingency Fee Basis? You’ve Found Them.  Our attorneys at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC, put your welfare first. Part of our commitment to our clients means being flexible when it comes to fee arrangements. Unlike most firms, our attorneys offer contingency fee options as well as traditional hourly billing. That means you have the flexibility to pay later. And if we don’t prevail in your case, you won’t have to pay us a dime.  That said, we’re very successful at obtaining outstanding results for our clients because of our many years of experience. We also offer exemplary customer service, so that you can rest easy while we represent you. Contact us online or call us to set up a free initial consultation. 

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Absence Without Leave (AWOL)

AWOL, which stands for ‘Absence Without Leave,’ is a term commonly used in work settings. It refers to an employee’s unauthorized absence from their duty or workplace without prior approval. When an employee goes AWOL, it typically results in a non-pay status, as their absence has not been officially sanctioned by their employer. 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: 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: 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: Without these protections, any adverse action taken against you can be thrown out for violating your rights.   Charged with AWOL? Let a Knowledgeable AWOL Attorney Help You Today If your federal employer has charged you with AWOL, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You may feel tempted to simply “roll over” and accept the agency’s punishment, but you shouldn’t. Take a stand instead. Fight for your rights and for your federal career.  At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, we care about your well-being and your future. We want to sit down with you and...

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Employment Law

How to Prove Wrongful Demotion As A Federal Employee

If you have suffered an unfair demotion at work, then a wrongful demotion lawsuit will be your best bet for clearing your name and getting your career back on track. But before you begin your lawsuit, it’s vital to know how to prove your claims. As Sun Tzu once wrote, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war.” There are two primary ways to prove wrongful demotion as a federal employee. The first is by showing that the government did not have just cause to remove you. The second way is by proving that your employer demoted you for illegal reasons, like discrimination or retaliation. Read on to learn more about these pathways and their respective legal requirements. If you have more detailed questions after reading this article, contact one of our outstanding federal employment attorneys.  How to Handle an Unfair Demotion Handling an unfair demotion is difficult under any circumstances. However, your strategy depends on how far along you are in the disciplinary process. As a brief reminder, there are three main stages of the disciplinary process:  1. Responding Before Your Employer Officially Proposes a Demotion Many employees have no idea that their employer is about to propose their demotion. However, there are other situations where you know that some kind of action is coming. If you are currently in this situation, make sure you document all interactions with your employer. Save copies of any relevant emails and journal any notable conversations. Continue doing this throughout every part of the disciplinary process.  Furthermore, consider scheduling a meeting with your supervisor or human resources team to discuss the alleged issue and potential alternatives. Hiring a legal representative for this kind of meeting can be a great way to show your employer that you want to resolve the situation and are willing to stand up for your rights. With timely action, many disciplinary actions can be delayed or even canceled. 2. Responding at the Proposal Stage By now, your employer is officially attempting to remove you. Fortunately, the law provides you with several protections. Due process requires that your employer first give you 30 days advance notice of its intent to demote you. They must do this in writing via a proposal letter. A proposal must include the following information to meet due process requirements: Make full use of all of these rights. Check whether the proposal letter meets all due process requirements. After that, carefully review the evidence. Does the proposal include objective evidence or just second-hand eyewitness accounts? Does anything suggest that you are getting treated differently than your colleagues?  Next, hire a legal advisor to help you craft a thorough oral and written reply. This reply may prove vital in convincing the deciding official not to demote you. 3. Responding After the Final Decision Letter After a minimum of 30 days, your employer will issue a final decision letter. In this letter, the deciding official can either uphold the penalty, mitigate it, or cancel the action entirely.  If you have received a decision letter upholding the unfair demotion, then you have the right to appeal the action to the Merit Systems Protection Board  (MSPB). Appeal your unfair demotion with the board within 30 days of the decision letter date. After that, hire an attorney to discuss how you will argue your case.  Legal Standards at an MSPB Hearing In an MSPB hearing, the burden is on your employer to justify their actions. If the demotion was related to misconduct, then your employer must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you committed the alleged conduct. They must also demonstrate that there is a nexus between your alleged misconduct and the efficiency of the federal service. If they cannot meet this burden, then the judge will overturn or mitigate your demotion. Even if the agency meets its burden, you have the opportunity to defend yourself by raising affirmative defenses. There are two main types of affirmative defenses: You can also argue that the agency’s decision was not in accordance with the law in some other way. If you can prove your affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence, then you will prevail even if the agency proves you committed the alleged misconduct. Can There Be Compensation for a Wrongful Demotion? Yes. If you succeed in your appeal, the MSPB can award you back pay, compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees. It can also reinstate you in your previous position. Contact Our Federal Employment Attorneys to Help You Handle Your Unfair Demotion Here at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, each one of our attorneys has a proven track record of effective litigation on behalf of federal employees. We’ve tackled all kinds of MSPB appeals, including ones for unfair and improper demotions. Thanks to our experience, we can work with you to identify an effective litigation strategy that maximizes your chance of a successful appeal. Along the way, we’ll provide you with sterling client service. Reach out to us today to schedule an initial appointment. 

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Adverse and Disciplinary Actions for Federal Employees

Adverse and disciplinary actions for federal employees are different classes of punishments. Both adverse and disciplinary actions are taken by an employer for reasons of performance or misconduct. Adverse actions include more serious punishments, while disciplinary actions often refer to less serious punishments. However, both can cause irreparable harm to your career and personal life. If you are a federal employee, disciplinary actions by your employer are something you need to take seriously. Consider consulting a successful federal employment attorney today to help you protect your rights. What Are Disciplinary Actions For Federal Employees? Disciplinary actions for federal employees refer to the range of measures that agencies can take against you for allegedly violating agency rules, regulations, or standards of conduct. Your employing federal agency is almost always responsible for taking these actions. Disciplinary actions can vary greatly in severity, from a simple warning or reprimand to more serious measures, such as suspensions. Common disciplinary actions for federal employees include: Various federal laws and regulations govern disciplinary actions for federal employees. A few key laws are the Civil Service Reform Act, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, and the Privacy Act. These laws and regulations provide you with certain rights and protections, such as the right to a fair and impartial hearing, the right to appeal, and the right to representation by a union or an attorney. It’s important to note that disciplinary actions must be based on a valid cause, such as unacceptable performance, misconduct, or some violation of laws or regulations. In addition, any actions based on characteristics like your race, sexual orientation, or religion are illegal. You also have a few due process rights when receiving disciplinary action. Specifically, you have the right to make a response and receive a written notice of the action.  What Are Adverse Actions For Federal Employees? Adverse actions are a serious kind of disciplinary action taken by a federal agency against a federal employee. As with disciplinary actions, adverse actions always negatively affect your job, pay, or benefits. They also have a huge impact on your reputation and employability. Adverse actions can include, but are not limited to, the following: Adverse actions against federal employees are governed by federal laws and regulations, including the Civil Service Reform Act, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, and the Privacy Act. Fortunately, these laws and regulations provide extensive rights and protections to federal employees. These include the right to a fair and impartial hearing, the right to appeal, and the right to representation by a union or an attorney. As with disciplinary actions, all adverse actions must stem from an act of misconduct or poor performance. In addition, federal agencies need to provide extensive due process procedures when they propose an adverse action against you. Specifically, you need to have at least 30 days’ advance notice of the action, an opportunity to respond to the proposed action, and the right to appeal it to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Let Our Federal Employment Attorneys Help You! Contact Us Today Whether you are facing adverse or disciplinary actions, you need to take it seriously. Even a minor reprimand can torpedo your chances of obtaining your dream position and leave you with a black mark on your record. With that in mind, you need to get legal counsel right away if your employer is proposing any kind of disciplinary action against you.  At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing PLLC, we are dedicated to preserving your rights. We will do whatever it takes to defend your good name. Furthermore, we will help you take action against discriminatory employers and other bad actors. Federal employment is a niche area, and most attorneys have little experience with it. However, we have decades of experience in federal employment issues. Don’t try to go it alone and jeopardize your career. Instead, give us a call at 866-612-5956 or get in touch with us online.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

PTSD Reasonable Accommodations for Federal Employees

Once called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” because of its association with the trauma of military combat, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has emerged as a growing mental health issue across the country. Statistics from the National Institutes of Health suggest that almost 4% of the U.S. adult population grappled with PTSD within the last year. Characterized by recurring nightmares, flashbacks, and an aversion to certain stimuli, PTSD is not merely a psychological abstract. It’s a tangible disruptor of everyday functionality. The good news for federal employees with PTSD is that they have a right to reasonable accommodation through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this piece, we’ll unpack PTSD’s status under the Rehab Act and the ADA. We’ll also discuss PTSD reasonable accommodation examples. Contact our outstanding federal Equal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reasonable accommodations lawyers to receive personalized legal advice.  Is PTSD an ADA Disability? “Is PTSD covered under the ADA” is probably your first question when it comes to this issue. It is undoubtedly the most common question we receive on this topic. The short answer is almost always yes.  Fully understanding this answer requires us to delve into the history of reasonable accommodation. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first law to obligate federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodation. However, there was some ambiguity on what constitutes a disability. While the ADA extended the rights to reasonable accommodation to private-sector employees, the controversy over the definition of a “disability” continued. Finally, Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) to expand the definition of disability and create a universally inclusive work environment. The ADAAA’s position is clear: any impairment that substantially impacting one or more major life activities warrants disability status. Given that major life activities include activities like working, thinking, and interacting with others, PTSD is undoubtedly a disability.  PTSD Reasonable Accommodation Examples Federal employees with PTSD have ample flexibility when it comes to requesting a reasonable accommodation. Ultimately, the best accommodation for you depends on your position’s core duties and specific symptoms. That said, here are a few PTSD reasonable accommodations: Curious to learn whether another kind of accommodation is possible for you? An experienced federal employment attorney can assist.  Requesting an Accommodation for PTSD: Simplicity in Action Submitting a reasonable accommodation request is refreshingly simple compared to other legal processes. All you have to do is make a simple statement that you need accommodation because of a mental or physical condition. A request could be something such as communicating that you need to work from home because of your PTSD symptoms. Once you share your need for an accommodation, you trigger an interactive process involving you and your employer. Both sides collaborate to find an ideal accommodation that meets your needs while not presenting an undue burden to your employer.    Are There Complex PTSD Accommodations? Yes. Many of the accommodations we mentioned earlier also suffice for complex PTSD (CPTSD). However, they’re not the only ones. Employees can request any accommodation that allows them to perform their job duties and is not an undue burden for their employer.  Start Your Reasonable Accommodation Journey with the Best Legal Team A qualified group of attorneys can help you transform your reasonable accommodation ideas into reality. Fortunately, our attorneys at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, are ready and willing to partner with you.  When you work with us, we’ll help you submit your request and articulate your ideal accommodations. We can also interface with your healthcare team to collect compelling medical evidence. Then, we negotiate with your agency’s human resources or reasonable accommodation team. We’ll even initiate legal action to get you the reasonable accommodation you deserve.  Don’t wait. Start your journey towards a better work-life by calling us today or contacting us online.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Anticipated Pay Raise for Federal Workers in 2024

As the end of 2023 rapidly approaches, millions of government workers wonder what the federal pay raise will be for 2024. The federal pay raise in 2024 will likely be 5.2% for most government workers. However, certain contingencies may make it higher or lower. Read on to learn about the federal pay raise in 2024, including its effective date and the effect of the continuing resolution.  Understanding How Federal Pay Raises Work To explain the upcoming pay raise, we need to explore the history of the federal pay raise process. According to various sources, federal employee pay has lagged behind the private sector for decades. In 1990, Congress passed the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA). This law aimed to close the pay gap between federal employees and their private-sector counterparts. It employed several mechanisms to achieve this balance. For one, it established locality pay so employees in higher-cost areas could receive additional pay. FEPCA also mandated an annual survey of private-sector pay to compare with federal salaries so that federal income continued to match the market.  Critically, FEPCA states that federal pay will automatically increase to match private-sector pay unless the President proposes a different pay raise amount because of an “economic emergency.” Congress can either alter the President’s proposed raise or remain silent, allowing the President’s proposal to take effect. Ever since FEPCA took effect in 1994, every president has annually used a minor provision within the law to prevent federal pay from fully catching up to private-sector pay. Specifically, the President claims that an “economic emergency” affecting the general welfare dictates implementing a different pay increase. Congress generally defers to this claim. Why the Federal Pay Raise in 2024 Will Likely Be 5.2% With inflation raging in 2023, several members of Congress introduced the FAIR Act, which would have raised federal worker pay by 8.7%. However, Congress has failed to act on the bill and seems unlikely to do so in the near future. President Biden announced a 5.2% average pay raise for federal employees in August. This pay raise consists of a 4.7% increase for all federal employees and an approximately 0.5% increase in locality pay. A few employees may get slightly more than this amount because the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is creating several new locality areas.  What’s the Relationship Between the Federal Pay Raise in 2024 and the Current Continuing Resolution? Given the recent dysfunction in Congress regarding the continuing resolution, many government employees wonder how the budget situation will affect their pay raise. The good news is that the continuing resolution will not affect the government employee pay raise. This is because the continuing resolution is effective until late January 2024. Furthermore, the resolution does not discuss the federal pay raise, so President Biden’s proposed raise will probably occur.  However, the situation after the new year is still unclear. The continuing resolution funds part of the government until January 20, 2024, and another part until February 3, 2024. What occurs after that time is anyone’s guess. If a shutdown occurs, most government employees will likely see a temporary loss of pay. Is There a Federal Pay Raise 2024 Calculator? Several online calculators help you predict your pay rate in 2024. That said, you can easily calculate your 2024 pay by multiplying your current pay by 1.052. You can multiply it by 1.087 to understand how your pay under the proposed FAIR Act would compare. Am I in a Locality Pay Area? As of 2024, the country will have 54 locality pay areas. These include the following areas: Most major cities have their own locality pay area. The highest locality pay is currently the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA area.  Questions About Your Federal Pay or Benefits? We Can Help.  Federal pay is a surprisingly tricky topic to understand. Yet, it pales compared to other federal employment issues like disability, retirement, employment discrimination protections, and Title 38 rights. At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, we love helping our clients make sense of their rights and responsibilities. We practice exclusively on federal employment issues, so we have ample experience deciphering even the most complex topics. Give us a call today, or get in touch with us to set up an initial consultation. 

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Federal Employee Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

Just like their private-sector counterparts, federal employees must meet performance standards. When federal employees fail to meet their performance standards, it can cost them their careers.  Unlike most private-sector employers, the government cannot simply fire federal employees when they begin to perform poorly. Instead, management must place the employee on a performance improvement plan (PIP). If the employee fails to perform adequately during the PIP, the agency can propose their removal from the federal service.  Read on to learn more about PIPs and how they can affect your career. We’ll discuss PIPs and the legal requirements your employer must meet when placing its employees on a PIP. If you have more questions or are in danger of going on a PIP yourself, consult an outstanding federal employment firm today. What Is a PIP? In contrast to private-sector employees, federal employees have due process rights for their jobs. This fact has enormous implications and gives federal employees significant protections. One of these protections is that agencies can only propose an employee for poor performance after the employee has: PIPs meet the second legal requirement. No adverse action is possible against the employee until they have failed the PIP.   What Should I Expect During a PIP? Let’s say your agency decides to place you on a PIP. The PIP process generally begins during a performance review. Your supervisor must inform you that your performance in one or more critical job elements is unsatisfactory. The supervisor will then issue you a letter informing you of your placement on the PIP. This letter will outline the length of the plan, your employer’s expectations, and the potential outcomes of the PIP.  During the PIP, your management will assign you tasks, monitor your performance closely, and provide continual feedback. Generally, supervisors will provide you with a written list of tasks for you to accomplish. They will then meet with you weekly to discuss what you did well and what you could improve. There are only two outcomes at the end of the PIP: success or failure. If you succeed, your agency cannot take any adverse action against you. If you fail, your agency can propose your demotion or removal. If your agency takes action against you, they must provide you with due process rights. These rights include at least 30 days’ advance notice, the right to respond, and the right to have a representative.  What Should I Do If I Receive a PIP? No federal employee wants a Performance Improvement Plan. If you do receive one, stay calm and read the letter thoroughly. Ensure the letter clearly identifies your performance failure, ties that failure to one or more critical elements of your job, and is consistent with your past performance reviews. Unclear or ambiguous PIPs can be indicative of illegal discrimination or harassment. Next, consult an attorney so you can understand the best path forward.   Performance Improvement Plan: Two Examples  Let’s consider two hypothetical PIP examples. Example #1: Larry’s Surprise Larry has worked for the Department of the Interior as an accountant for eight years. His performance reviews have always been acceptable, and he has received several awards during the past two years. At Larry’s last performance review, his manager told him that his performance in two critical elements of his job was unacceptable. He then gave Larry a PIP notice letter. When Larry asked for an example of the supposed performance failures, his supervisor said there were “countless examples” but refused to give details. Larry suspects that the PIP has to do with his decision to testify against his manager in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hearing three months ago.  Example #2: Lana’s Struggle Lana is a dedicated FBI agent with a strong record of success. However, she’s been struggling to complete her reports accurately after her mother died last year. Lana’s supervisor has repeatedly emailed her about obvious performance errors and mentioned that Lana was in danger of receiving an unacceptable rating in one of her core job duties. Consequently, it was no surprise when Lana received a PIP notice letter last week. When she reviewed the letter, she realized it was consistent with past feedback and clearly stated what Lana had to do to improve her unacceptable performance. She decided to get her act together. She hired a therapist to help her cope with the grief of her mother’s death and then dedicated herself to performing her PIP tasks correctly. Her hard work paid off, and she passed the PIP.  Don’t Fight a PIP on Your Own. Give Us a Call Today.   The Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, is standing by to help you make sense of your PIP notice. When you consult us, we can analyze your letter, advise you of your legal options, and help you take the next steps. We strive to provide excellence in legal representation and first-class customer service. Let us help you today.  Call or visit us online to get started.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Workplace Discrimination

Pregnancy Discrimination Overview for Federal Employees

Treating a woman unfavorably because of pregnancy and childbirth has been against the law for decades. However, there are between 2,000 and 4,000 pregnancy discrimination claims annually in the federal workplace. While pregnancy discrimination may seem explanatory to some, it’s wise to educate yourself on what it is. Education is important if you or a loved one are facing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.  As dedicated federal employment attorneys, it is our honor and passion to educate workers on every aspect of their rights. Read on to learn more about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. We’ll cover the definition of pregnancy and relate the laws that protect pregnant women. Then, we’ll unpack how you can fight pregnancy discrimination.    If you still have questions about pregnancy discrimination or wish to consult an attorney, contact us right away.  What Is Pregnancy Discrimination? According to the EEOC, pregnancy discrimination occurs when employers treat women unfavorably because of pregnancy or childbirth. Pregnancy discrimination may also happen because of a pregnancy-related physical or mental disability, such as postpartum depression. The prohibition against discrimination extends to every aspect of employment. So, it’s discrimination if an employee faces negative consequences like termination or demotion because she’s pregnant or given birth. It’s also illegal for an agency to alter a pregnant woman’s work schedule, transfer her, or exclude her from meetings.    What Laws Prohibit Pregnancy Discrimination? Several laws interface together to prohibit pregnancy-based discrimination and harassment. These include: Pregnancy rights recently took a great leap forward with the passage of the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA). FEPLA grants new mothers and fathers up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Collectively, these laws give substantial rights to employees. And employers must always respect those rights.   How to Respond to Pregnancy Discrimination  Facing pregnancy discrimination at work? It’s tough, but here’s a step-by-step on how to handle it: Finally, take care of yourself. Pregnancy discrimination takes a toll. It’s essential to seek support, whether through friends or family. Your well-being is crucial. Defend Your Rights by Contacting Us Today Nobody ever imagines themselves having to deal with pregnancy discrimination. Therefore, it can be confusing and difficult to respond to. However, you’re not alone. A qualified attorney can partner with you to defend your rights and hold bad actors accountable.  At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, we specialize exclusively in federal employment law. That means we’ve seen all kinds of discrimination cases, including pregnancy discrimination. On top of that, we’re passionate about defending federal employees against illegal workplace discrimination. So, let’s work together to make federal workplaces free from pregnancy discrimination.  Call us today or contact us online to set up a free initial consultation.

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