| 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 In this case, the VA argued that the Act superseded the CBA, and therefore Title 5 employees could be removed for performance deficiencies without going through the PIP process.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 | Workplace Discrimination

Understanding Discrimination Hiring Practices: Passed Over for Promotion by Less Qualified Employees

When you’re expecting a promotion and your supervisor suddenly gives it to another candidate, it can be frustrating. You may be wondering why you were passed over in favor of someone else, especially if they aren’t as qualified as you are. If you ask your boss and don’t get a satisfactory answer, there may be a reason. Unfortunately, discrimination in the federal workplace is not a new problem. Being passed over for a promotion in favor of a less-qualified candidate is not uncommon either. If you suspect you’re the victim of workplace discrimination, you need to contact a skilled federal employment lawyer right away. Discrimination in Promotion or Non-Selection Federal employers can choose to hire and promote someone for numerous legitimate reasons. However, the law prohibits employers from passing on an employee if their motives are rooted in certain types of discrimination. Actions that are even somewhat discriminatory are unlawful. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating in any facet of employment, including hiring, termination, referral, promotion, etc. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that enforces these laws.   Employers cannot refuse to promote or hire someone because of: Gender, including sexual harassment; Pregnancy; Sexual orientation; Gender identity; Race; Age; Disability; or Ethnicity. Proving discrimination is not necessarily easy, but it’s not impossible. If you believe you were discriminated against, you have the right to take legal action against your federal agency. To better understand what workplace discrimination looks like, here are several other examples: An employer excludes employees of a certain race during recruitment activities; An employer denies employee benefits or bonus compensation to older employees; An employer gives different amounts of overtime to equally qualified employees in the same position based on their gender; An employer impermissibly discriminates when deciding who to terminate or who to promote; or An internal employment opportunity notice expresses a preference for employees who don’t have children. If you are considering pursuing a formal complaint about your missed promotion, you need to act quickly. You don’t have a lot of time to initiate your EEO complaint. What to Do When You Are Passed Over for a Promotion? Employees who have experienced discrimination in their workplace have legal rights. You should start by asking the hiring manager or your boss to explain why you were not promoted. If they don’t give you a straight answer or your gut tells you there is something they are leaving out, consider digging deeper. This is an excellent time to contact an experienced federal employee lawyer. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, we focus on legal issues affecting federal employees. We have years of experience representing clients in workplace harassment and discrimination claims. There is no harm in contacting us to discuss your situation. We can evaluate your case and let you know what the best course of legal action is. Depending on the circumstances, your attorney may suggest you make a complaint about the alleged discrimination. This is when you want to pay close attention to conversations in your office. Look for patterns of discrimination. Some incidents may not be overt. Gather any text messages, emails, or other documents you have that could point to discrimination in the workplace. Understandably, you might be concerned about retaliation after reporting that you were passed over for a promotion by a less-qualified candidate. While illegal, retaliation does occur in workplaces, including federal agencies. If you reported discrimination or harassment and adverse employment action has been taken against you, it’s time to contact our office. Filing an EEOC Claim as a Federal Employee If you are considering filing a EEO complaint of discrimination against your agency, the process is unique for federal employees. Your first step is to speak with an EEO counselor at the agency where you work. Typically, you have only 45 days from the date of discrimination to contact them. You can then elect to process your case through traditional EEO counseling or an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program. A qualified federal employment attorney can advise you as to which route to take in your specific case.  In the event your dispute doesn’t resolve through one of these two methods, you have up to 15 days to file a formal complaint with your agency’s EEO office, which leads to a fact-finding investigation. Once they have completed this investigation, you have the choice to have the agency issue their decision through a final agency decision (FAD) or request a hearing before an EEOC administrative law judge. Depending on the outcome, you may later need to appeal by filing a civil action in federal court. Consult a Federal Employee Lawyer Today When you have been passed over for a promotion in favor of a less qualified candidate, you have the right to take action. If there is discrimination happening in your federal workplace, it’s probably not an isolated incident. Employers cannot discriminate against employees, nor can they retaliate if an employee reports an incident. To learn more about your legal options after being discriminated against, contact the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing today.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Workplace Harassment

Workplace Harassment: A Federal Employees’ Guide to Understanding Your Rights

Workplace harassment continues to be a problem at federal agencies, with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reporting that most of the claims filed in 2019 were related to harassment. Federal employees should familiarize themselves with applicable harassment laws. These laws not only protect employees’ rights, but they can also potentially eliminate future incidents of harassment. If you believe you were the victim of workplace harassment while working in a federal government position, it’s time to contact an experienced federal workplace harassment attorney who can help. What Is Considered Harassment in the Workplace? Some people assume workplace harassment is just another term for sexual harassment. However, sexual harassment is only one type of workplace harassment that employees may suffer. Harassment can be verbal, psychological, physical, or in the form of online bullying.  Workplace harassment occurs anytime an employee suffers unwelcome or unwanted conduct based on: Race, Religion, Sex (including pregnancy), Color, National origin, Age (40 or older), Disability, or Genetic information. Harassment becomes illegal when the conduct creates an intimidating or hostile work environment or is offensive to reasonable people. There is a threshold test, whether the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive. Minor annoyances or petty slights will not typically rise to the level of unlawful workplace harassment. Examples of illegal workplace harassment include offensive jokes, physical assaults, racial slurs, intimidation, and conduct that interferes with work performance. Sexual harassment can include requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, quid pro quo harassment, or other physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature. In many cases, sexual harassment is not overt or physical; it’s often masked in comments or banter, making future encounters uncomfortable and awkward. Sexual harassment victims can be female or male. They may even be the same sex as their harasser.  In 2019, sexual harassment claims accounted for 10.3% of the EEOC’s total complaints.  Harassment also includes retaliation for engaging in protected EEO activity. Anti-discrimination laws provide that harassment against people in retaliation for a filing a discrimination complaint or engaging in other protected EEO activity is illegal. This protected activity includes someone who has filed a discrimination charge or participated in an investigation, or other EEO-type proceedings, requested a reasonable accommodation, or provided testimony in another employee’s EEO complaint. Complaints involving retaliation comprise more than half of all complaints filed with the EEOC. Out of 72,675 complaints filed in 2019, 39,110 involved retaliation. When Are Employers Liable for Workplace Harassment? Federal employers can be held liable for workplace harassment even when they are not directly involved. An employer must take reasonable action to prevent any harassment in the workplace. If harassment has occurred, the employer must take swift corrective action. Federal agencies will be automatically liable for harassment by someone in a supervisory position that resulted in termination, loss of wages, failure to hire or promote, or other negative employment action. Suppose a supervisor’s alleged harassment resulted in a hostile work environment. In that case, the employer could be held responsible unless that employer can prove that it took appropriate preventative and corrective measures, and the involved employees did not follow the applicable policies. Harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees the employer controls, like a customer or independent contractor, is handled a bit differently. Employers are only held liable if they knew or should have known about the harassment and did not take swift and necessary corrective action. The best way to eliminate workplace harassment is to prevent it before it happens. Agencies should have an effective grievance or complaint process so that employees can report any unwanted conduct immediately. Speaking with employees about harassment and establishing anti-harassment training for both supervisory staff and employees are essential components of harassment prevention. What Can Employees Do About Harassment in the Workplace? When harassment occurs in the federal workplace, employees must take action to try and stop it. Employees can start by trying to resolve the issue at the lowest level, speaking directly with the person who has committed the harassment. It’s important to communicate that you find the behavior or words offensive. If the harassment continues, employees should follow the applicable reporting procedures for their employer. Report the conduct early on to keep it from escalating. Employees can also file a complaint with their agency’s EEO office, which eventually could come directly before the EEOC. Consult a Federal Employee Lawyer Today If you are the victim of federal workplace harassment, it may affect your work performance. The job you once loved may now be a source of extreme stress. You may experience difficulty sleeping, mood swings, or other symptoms as a result. Taking action to stop the unwanted conduct can help you feel better. Putting a stop to workplace harassment can protect you and your federal career that you’ve worked so hard for over the years.  Don’t let someone get away with workplace harassment. Speak with a skilled federal workplace harassment lawyer who can help you understand your legal options. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, our focus is federal employee law, including workplace harassment. We can advise you on the best course of action and guide you through the process of reporting the unlawful harassment you have suffered. Our primary goals are to protect your rights and to make the harassment stop. Contact our office or give us a call at (833) 833-3529 to schedule an initial consultation or to speak with a federal workplace harassment attorney.

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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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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Workplace Discrimination

Federal Sector Failure to Promote and Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

When you ace an interview for a new position, especially if you are well-qualified, it can be confusing to find out that someone else got the promotion. Especially when you learn that the person who got the job was less qualified and had far less experience. Understandably, you want to know why the hiring manager chose that applicant and didn’t promote you instead.  If you can’t get a straight answer, the hiring manager may be hiding something. Was the other applicant a different gender? Employers cannot refuse to promote someone because of their gender. If you suspect gender discrimination in the workplace, it’s imperative to speak with an experienced federal employee lawyer today. What Qualifies As Gender Discrimination in the Workplace? Determining what qualifies as gender discrimination can be difficult, which is why it’s crucial to have an attorney on your side. Gender discrimination against women in the workforce is nothing new, unfortunately. Women employed by the federal government continue to be passed over for promotions in favor of less experienced and less qualified men. This practice continues even though Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits failure to promote due to an applicant’s gender. While gender discrimination is not easy to prove, victims do have legal options. There are legitimate reasons someone may not get promoted that don’t qualify as gender discrimination. Possible legitimate reasons for failure to promote include: A lack of required educational qualification; A lack of experience for the position; A failure to meet the minimum qualifications; An inability to commit to the position’s work schedule; Another applicant was more qualified; Poorer performance during an interview; An unfavorable performance review at their current position; and An inability to perform required job duties, even with reasonable allowances and accommodations for a disability. Even if the explanation you received about why you weren’t promoted includes one or more of these legitimate reasons, you may still have a valid gender discrimination case if the given reason was pretext for discriminatory practices. Examples of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace  All types of gender discrimination in the workplace are illegal. An employer cannot treat an employee differently because of their gender. If someone is passed over for a promotion or a job because of their gender, they have likely been the victim of gender discrimination. Other examples of gender discrimination in the workplace include: Unequal pay for men and women doing the same job; Different sets of interview questions depending on gender; A positional bias that sees women in stereotypical positions, i.e., secretary, receptionist, and administrative assistant; Sexual harassment; Different dress code depending on gender; Diminished responsibilities for one gender; Different conversation styles depending on gender; and Different termination protocols between genders. Uncovering gender bias is not always easy. It’s even more challenging to eradicate it from the workplace. However, once you start looking closely, you may spot some of these gender biases in your workplace. Proving a causal connection between the failure to promote an employee and gender discrimination can be complicated, but typically possible to accomplish. That is why you need to retain the right federal employee lawyer to represent you. To successfully prove gender discrimination in the workplace, you must show that your gender was a motivating factor for a hiring manager not having promoted you. Something can be a “motivating factor” even if your agency would have taken the same action without a discriminatory motive. One way to prove a causal connection is to identify patterns of discriminatory conduct. Are significantly more women or men passed over for managerial positions? Are there other signs of discriminatory practices? Listen to conversations between other workers or comments made by supervisors. You may hear something that points to different patterns of discrimination. Be sure to hold onto any company documents, emails, or text messages that point to possible bias. Evidence of bias will be important for building a persuasive discrimination case.  Consult a Federal Employee Lawyer Today Filing a claim for gender discrimination in the workplace is not easy. That is one reason why hiring an attorney is so essential. Often, if one type of unlawful discrimination occurs in the workplace, others may be present as well. When you retain the skilled federal employee lawyers at the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, we will look for other discrimination patterns in addition to the bias you experienced. Speaking out after experiencing gender discrimination firsthand can be scary. Understandably, you may worry whether anyone will believe you, or about what happens after reporting the incident. Retaliation and termination are two legitimate concerns many federal employees have after reporting any discrimination. If you are terminated or experience retaliation after reporting discrimination, that is also illegal. While exposing gender discrimination can be terrifying, it’s crucial to speak up and protect your rights. With laws in place to protect you from gender discrimination in the workplace, you do not have to allow any employer to discriminate against you, especially the federal government. If you believe you experienced gender discrimination or any other type of discrimination in the workplace, contact the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing or give us a call today at (833) 833-3529 to schedule an initial consultation. Let us help protect your rights and fight for the equal treatment you deserve.

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