Federal employees enjoy many competitive benefits with the government, including a generous retirement package.
However, if you are a federal government employee facing possible disciplinary actions, then you may be understandably concerned about your federal retirement benefits.
How do disciplinary actions affect your retirement benefits? The good news is that most disciplinary actions do not affect your federal retirement.
However, there are a few exceptions. The ultimate answer depends on your specific situation and whether you have committed one or more specific federal crimes.
That said, if you or a loved one are facing disciplinary actions, then there are other things at stake besides your retirement benefits.
Understanding the Basics of Federal Retirement Benefits
Virtually all federal employees are eligible to receive retirement benefits under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS).
The FERS retirement package consists of three components. The first part is the Thrift Savings Plan, which is essentially a 401k program that the government administers.
You can choose to contribute a portion of each paycheck to your TSP account, and your agency will make a matching contribution.
Once you reach a certain age, you can draw on your TSP funds.
The second retirement component is the FERS Basic Benefits Plan, a defined benefits plan that takes a part of your pay to guarantee you a monthly retirement pension.
Social Security benefits make up the third and final portion of the plan.
Your final retirement benefits depend on several factors, including your average pay, years of service, and whether you have a disability.
Can My Retirement Benefits Be Interrupted for Disciplinary Action?
In most situations, federal employees cannot lose their retirement benefits because of disciplinary actions.
Even federal employees who face termination for misconduct or poor performance can usually rest easy.
The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is a federal agency that allows employees to appeal disciplinary actions that they have received from their employer.
The Board also occasionally resolves key questions regarding federal employment law, including issues revolving around federal retirement benefits and disciplinary actions.
In Morrison v. Department of the Navy, the Board made clear that federal retirement benefits are “available upon separation from federal service, even when the separation is agency initiated.”
Consequently, if you are facing removal from federal service for alleged misconduct, you do not need to resign to “save” your retirement benefits.
How Can Federal Employees Lose Their Retirement Benefits?
It is very difficult for federal employees to lose their retirement benefits. 5 U.S.C. § 8312 states that you need to be convicted of committing one or more specific crimes for this to happen.
Specifically, there are only about 20 crimes that can cause you to lose your federal retirement benefits, including:
- Seditious conspiracy against the United States,
- Advocating the overthrow of the government,
- Subversive activities,
- Wrongly disclosing classified information, and
- Fleeing the country to avoid prosecution or conviction.
As you can see, all of these crimes are very serious and rarely occur. So as long as you do not receive a conviction for any of these crimes, your retirement benefits will be safe.
What About Federal Employees Outside the Federal Employee Retirement System?
FERS covers all employees who began work with the Federal government after 1987.
However, Federal employees who began their service before 1987 receive retirement benefits under a different plan, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).
Although CSRS offers different retirement benefits to eligible federal employees, you cannot lose those benefits because of disciplinary action except for the reasons stated above.
Want to Learn More About How to Protect Your Federal Career?
It’s reassuring to know that your federal retirement benefits are safe when you are facing disciplinary action. However, disciplinary actions are still very serious.
They can leave a black mark on your career and reputation, lower your income, and jeopardize your job prospects.
That said, if your employee is proposing disciplinary action against you, you need to consult a federal employment attorney right away.
Here at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, we take pride in protecting federal employees.
We care deeply about the outstanding men and women who serve the government every day. That means we’re committed to helping them defend their livelihoods and careers.
If you are facing disciplinary action, we can work with you to build your case and protect your rights.
We can also aggressively negotiate with your employer and take action against them for retaliating or discriminating against you.
Even if you’re not sure you have a case, come see us right away. Don’t wait.