| Read Time: 5 minutes | Wrongful Termination

Can a Federal Employee Sue Their Employer?

Federal employees share many similarities with their privately employed counterparts. However, when a privately employed person is injured or wrongfully terminated, they can sue their employer. When the government is your employer, the question often arises: Can a federal employee sue their employer? The answer is yes, with some caveats. Because the federal government has sovereign immunity, federal employees cannot file lawsuits against it unless the government waives this immunity. Therefore, if a federal employee wants to sue the federal government, they can do so only in limited circumstances. In these limited circumstances, the exact methods for suing the government may not be actual lawsuits, at least at first. Federal employees have to go through certain administrative procedures before they can file a lawsuit in federal court, and thankfully many times a complaint can be resolved during these administrative procedures. Our federal EEOC attorneys will explain what you need to know. What Can a Federal Employee Sue the Federal Government For? Wrongful termination and workplace discrimination are the most common lawsuits employees bring against their employers. Federal employees can sue the federal government for either of these reasons, though the process is different than with a private employer. While private sector employees may bring lawsuits against employers in civil court, federal employees must first file a claim with an independent review body rather than the court system. The initial claim sets in motion the administrative process federal employees must exhaust before they can sue the federal government. Once the employee receives a final decision from the reviewing agency, they may file a lawsuit in federal court. When Can a Federal Employee Sue Their Employer? A federal employee can sue the federal government for discrimination, harassment, non-selection, demotion, wrongful termination, and for several other bases. For example, federal employee may have a claim to sue their federal agency if the employee Faced discrimination or harassment based on their race, sex, or other protected characteristic; Was fired or experienced discrimination because the employee “blew the whistle” on misconduct, abuse of authority, or illegal activity; or Had their employment terminated for an unfair or arbitrary reason which would not promote the efficiency of the service. These are only a few of the common claims a federal employee may have to sue their employer. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated or suffered harassment at your federal workplace, you should contact a federal employment lawyer who can advise you of your rights and possible avenues of recovery. Suing a Federal Employer for Workplace Discrimination There are several laws, enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that protect federal employees against workplace discrimination and harassment. These laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, among others. Title VII is perhaps the most expansive, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Federal employees protected by these laws must go through a different complaint process compared to private sector employees. First, federal employees must speak with the equal employment opportunity counselor at the agency where the employee works. Most employees know this department as their EEO office, although some agencies do use varying acronyms, such as the Office of Resolution Management (ORM) at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Before filing a formal complaint, the employee must participate in either counseling or in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), usually mediation. If the employee can’t reach a resolution, they may then file a formal complaint with their federal agency. Unless the agency dismisses the complaint, they will then investigate the claims of discrimination and issue a Report of Investigation (ROI), along with a notice of right to request a hearing before an administrative judge (AJ) of the EEOC or a final agency decision. After hearing the case, the AJ submits an initial decision to the agency. The agency then issues a final decision indicating whether it agrees with the AJ’s conclusion and will implement the order. After receiving the agency’s final decision, an employee can file a lawsuit in federal civil court. Properly exhausting administrative remedies is necessary for obtaining review by a federal court. Hiring a federal employment lawyer to guide you through the process will ensure that you do not miss any deadlines and that your case is as strong as possible. Suing a Federal Employer for Wrongful Termination Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires someone for any reason prohibited by the law. Firing an employee based on discrimination or in retaliation for something the employee did are examples of wrongful termination. Wrongful termination can also occur when employees are forced out on trumped up charges or coerced to resign. Filing a Wrongful Termination Claim With the exception of Title 38 VA employees and certain others, wrongful termination claims are usually filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), though employees may file these claims through the EEO process or union grievance as well. Employees may file a claim only with one of these options, generally, the one you elect first; discussing these options with a federal employment attorney will help you determine which is best for your situation. Appealing Wrongful Termination to the MSPB After filing an appeal with the MSPB, the employee engages in the discovery process with the agency, during which time each side gathers information to support their case. Information gathering may take the form of interrogatories, requests for admission, requests for the production of documents, or depositions. An experienced federal employment lawyer will be familiar with this process and can help you gather the right evidence during the discovery process.  After discovery, the parties attend a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Each side presents evidence and testimony that supports their case. Keep in mind that during this entire process, your attorney can negotiate with the other side to attempt to reach a settlement. If you and your employer can reach an agreement, it may be possible to...

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| Read Time: 7 minutes | Wrongful Termination

Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Federal Employee Attorney

Working for the U.S. government offers a number of benefits that make federal employment a great option. However, federal employees are subject to different rules than private citizens in some cases. As a federal employee, it is important to understand what your rights are and how you can use them to your advantage to protect your job and your wellbeing. Our Federal EEOC lawyers will explain. What Are My Rights as a Federal Employee? Subject to some limited exceptions, federal employees have the same rights in the workplace as any other employee. Broadly speaking, you are entitled to a safe workplace where you can report unsafe conditions or illegal conduct without retaliation. Your individual rights range from protection against discrimination to certain advanced procedures in the case of downsizing of your office. If your employer disciplines or fires you, you have the right to appeal. And depending on where you work and whether you are a bargaining unit employee, you may be able to take advantage of union representation. Federal Employee Civil Rights There are four main federal civil rights laws that cover federal employees: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; The Equal Pay Act of 1963; and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Together, these laws protect federal employees from discrimination and harassment based on a number of protected traits. As a federal employee, you have a right to a safe workplace free of discrimination or harassment based on your race, color, religion, sex, disability, or age. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects against both intentionally and unintentionally discriminatory practices. If you have been subject to any office policy or conduct causing even indirect discrimination, you may have a claim under the Civil Rights Act. The Equal Pay Act prohibits the government from engaging in discriminatory payment practices based on your sex. This Act applies to jobs that are “substantially equal,” where the employees perform work of similar skill and responsibility in the same working conditions. Even if two positions are not strictly identical, the Equal Pay Act will protect against pay discrimination between them. In addition, the Act covers all forms of pay, not just salary or hourly wages. Although people are hesitant to share details about their salary or wages, you may have a claim if you suspect that you are being paid less than your coworkers, including fewer bonuses, allowances, or accommodations, based on your sex. Protection Against Age and Disability Discrimination The Age Discrimination In Employment Act and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act protect you against discrimination based on your age or status as a person with a physical or mental impairment. The Rehabilitation Act in particular allows federal employees to receive certain rights found in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Section 501 requires that federal employees not only refrain from discriminating against such persons but that they take proactive steps to recruit them. Workplace Safety Rights for Federal Employees The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) oversees workplace safety. As a federal employee, you are entitled to a safe workplace free of known health and safety hazards. You also have the right to report workplace hazards without fear of firing, demotion, or discipline for doing so. Federal Employee Protection Against Prohibited Personnel Practices If you are a regular Title 5 federal employee, you may be able to appeal a disciplinary action or certain personnel decisions to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Personnel decisions are those made within an organization that affect employees’ work lives, such as demotions, transfers, suspensions, or discharge. The MSPB is responsible for hearing employee appeals of these actions and others to ensure that federal employees receive due process. If you are a non-probationary employee (i.e. you have been hired for a permanent position and have successfully completed any probationary period), you can file an appeal with the MSPB if you are suspended for more than 14 days, discharged from your position, or demoted. Various other personnel decisions, OPM retirement issues or retaliatory disciplinary actions, are also appealable. The Office of Special Counsel is responsible for investigating and prosecuting the 14 personnel practices prohibited by 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b), most notably whistleblower retaliation. In addition to discrimination, federal law prohibits: Coercing political activity,  Hiring relatives (nepotism),  Retaliating against employees for filing appeals,  Violating veteran’s preference requirements, or  Deceiving or obstructing a person from seeking employment. If you have experienced any of these adverse actions, a federal employee attorney can help. Whistleblower Protections Federal employees may be in a position to expose fraud or other wrongdoing that occurs within the government. Under the Whistleblower Protection Act And Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), federal employees have protection against retaliation for their disclosure of certain misconduct, including: Illegal actions,  Gross mismanagement, Gross waste of funds, Abuse of authority, and Substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. Whistleblowers provide an important public service, and the breadth of protection for federal employee whistleblowers demonstrates that importance. In addition to the whistleblower act, many federal agencies are responsible for administering their own whistleblower protection laws. OSHA, for example, administers workplace-safety-related whistleblower protections under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Keep in mind, however, that these agencies may not offer the same confidentiality as broader federal whistleblower laws. What Happens If You Get Fired from a Federal Job? The full consequences of termination from a federal job depend on what kind of federal employee you were and the pay grade you had achieved at the time of discharge. If you believe you were fired from your federal job in circumstances that are illegal or that violate any of the prohibited personnel practices, you should contact a federal employee attorney as soon as possible. A federal employment attorney can review your termination and help you determine whether your termination was lawful. If it was not, your attorney can help you file an appeal. Because the MSPB...

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Wrongful Termination

FLRA Decision Reverses VA Removals Under 38 USC 714

In recent years, perhaps no law has had a greater effect on the Department of Veterans Affairs employees as has The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, codified in part in 38 USC 714. The Act has provided the Agency a “fast track” to suspend, demote, or remove Title 5 VA employees. Under this authority, not only are deadlines for an employee’s MSPB appeal rights shortened from 30 calendar days to 10 business days, but the burden of proof on the Agency was lessened to a much lower standard, making it even easier for the VA to prove their case. However, on November 16, 2020, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) issued a major win for federal employees. This decision will likely require the VA to reinstate, with back pay, thousands of employees who were removed for performance deficiencies under the Act. In its decision, the FLRA upheld an arbiter’s ruling that the Act did not supersede the AFGE Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which requires the VA to institute a performance improvement plan (PIP) to allow an employee an opportunity to improve before having a removal imposed. In this case, the VA argued that the Act superseded the CBA, and therefore Title 5 employees could be removed for performance deficiencies without going through the PIP process. This argument initially appeared valid too, since an act of Congress would in fact trump an agreement between a federal agency and a union. Had the VA’s argument prevailed, it would have marked another blow to the rights of federal employees at the VA by completely abrogating the PIP process in these cases. In its response, and in the opinion of the FLRA, AFGE correctly argued that while the Act lays out new procedures for removal actions under the authority of §714, these procedures only take effect once a disciplinary action is proposed. The PIP process takes place prior to any discipline being proposed and therefore is a completely separate process not covered by the Act. As a result of this decision, it appears that the Department of Veterans Affairs will have to reinstate all employees who were removed under Section 714 for performance deficiencies and who were not placed on a PIP prior to having their removal proposed. This would amount to hundreds, if not thousands, of reinstatements with retroactive back pay.  Get Help from a Federal Wrongful Termination Lawyer Today The Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing is an experienced federal employment law firm that assists wrongfully terminated federal employees from across the country. Attorney Aaron D. Wersing understands the new, complex issues you face under §714 and vows to work tirelessly to protect your career. Combining extensive legal knowledge and experience with empathy and commitment allows us to help protect your legal rights and get the justice you deserve If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated under federal employment protections, whether it’s under 38 USC §714, Chapter 75, Chapter 43, or as a probationary employee, contact us or give us a call at (833) 833-3529 for help.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Wrongful Termination

Learn How Federal Laws Protect You from Wrongful Termination

Employers have an obligation to treat their employees fairly, in accordance with federal statutes. These federal laws provide a variety of protections that prevent your employer from wrongfully terminating you. Understanding these protections can help ensure that you receive fair treatment from your employer. If you have been wrongfully terminated, you might have a valid legal claim against your former employer. A federal wrongful termination lawyer from the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing can help you get the justice you deserve. Wrongful Termination & Employment Discrimination A variety of federal laws prohibit an employer from terminating you based on traits and characteristics that include: Race, Age, Sex, Skin color, Religion, National origin, and Disability. You cannot be terminated because you are pregnant or gave birth, or due to any medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. You cannot be fired based on any of your genetic traits or ancestry. Your employer cannot fire you based on your marital status, gender identity (including transgender status), or sexual orientation. Employers must also provide reasonable accommodations to their employees based on a disability as well as religious beliefs and practices. Further, federal law protects you from potential retaliation by an employer. For example, your employer cannot terminate you because you complained about being discriminated against, participated in or assisted with a discrimination investigation, or filed a legal claim alleging discriminatory treatment. You might have been subject to a different type of discriminatory termination than those listed here. Talk to an experienced employment attorney to determine whether you have been wrongfully fired by your former employer. Wrongful Termination & FMLA The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take an extended (unpaid) leave from your job for specified family and medical reasons, such as if you suffer from an illness or if you need to take care of a sick family member. Both parents are allowed to take unpaid leave for the birth of their child. You may also take leave for specific reasons related to a family member’s military service. FMLA provides flexibility for how you can take your leave, including arranging for an intermittent or reduced work schedule. After you return from your leave, the employer must reinstate you in an equivalent position with equivalent compensation and benefits. FMLA is a complex area of the law. A wrongful termination lawyer can explain your rights and entitlements under FMLA and help you determine if you might have a viable case. Wrongful Termination & Workplace Safety Certain federal laws protect your health and safety in the workplace. Your employer must ensure that your workplace is free from any known safety or health hazards. Employers must provide applicable safety training in a language you can reasonably understand and ensure that any equipment or machinery you work on is safe to operate. Your employer must provide you with appropriate safety equipment and protect you from toxic substances while on the job. Your employer cannot legally terminate you for speaking out about potential safety issues, for filing a report about a workplace injury, or for filing a valid workers’ compensation claim. You are also legally entitled to review the results of workplace testing to identify potential hazards. This right to review workplace testing is now significantly more complex due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes to federal laws and to their interpretation are ongoing. If you were terminated due to a workplace safety issue, talk to an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights to pursue a claim. Other Potential Wrongful Termination Issues You could be wrongfully terminated for any number of reasons beyond those noted above. Your employer might not be able to legally fire you for actions involving a labor union, for example. You also cannot be terminated for refusing to take a lie detector test in most cases. You likely cannot be fired in most cases for refusing to break the law in the course of your job or for being a whistleblower. The best way to determine the viability of your case is to talk to an experienced employee rights or employment law attorney. How Can a Federal Wrongful Termination Attorney Help You? Consulting an experienced attorney can give you the knowledge and information you need to pursue justice. In many cases, employers wrongfully terminate employees because they simply don’t know the laws or how those laws apply to their business. In other cases, however, an employer might fire you despite knowing that it violates the law. Wrongfully terminated employees may be afraid of what could happen if they pursue a claim or think they can’t afford a lawyer to help them. In most cases, you can consult an attorney at no cost, as most offer complimentary case evaluations. How attorney’s fees work for you will depend on the attorney and the nature of your case. However, if you were wrongfully terminated, you could be entitled to recover your attorneys’ fees, as well as compensation for lost wages and benefits, the difference in the cost of your medical insurance, emotional distress, or other related damages. Get Help from a Federal Wrongful Termination Lawyer Today Attorney Aaron Wersing of the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing is an experienced employment law attorney who assists wrongfully terminated clients from across the country. At the firm, we understand the complex issues you face and vow to work tirelessly to protect your legal rights. Combining extensive legal knowledge and experience with empathy and commitment allows us to help protect your legal rights and get the justice you deserve. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated under federal employment protections, contact Aaron Wersing today or give us a call at (833) 833-3529 for help.

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