| 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 | FERS Disability

What Is FERS Immediate Retirement Fund?

The Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) is the primary retirement system for federal employees. Federal employees under FERS have several retirement options, including disability retirement, early retirement, and immediate retirement. In this piece, we’ll explore FERS immediate retirement in greater depth. Specifically, we’ll discuss the immediate retirement fund and how to fill out the required FERS retirement forms. Contact our talented employment law firm if you have any questions or need legal assistance with your retirement application.    Understanding the Basic Eligibility Requirements for FERS Immediate Retirement  The Office of Personnel Management describes immediate retirement as an annuity that starts within 30 days of your last work day. It is one of five retirement options under FERS. The others are early, disability, regular, and deferred. Not everyone is eligible for immediate retirement. Instead, there are age and experience requirements you must meet to qualify. If you have at least 30 years of eligible government service, you can retire at the government’s minimum retirement age (MRA). The MRA varies according to your year of birth. Those born before 1948 have an MRA of 55, while those born after 1970 have an MRA of 57. As this OPM chart shows, if you were born between 1948 and 1970, your MRA will be between 55 and 57.  If you have 20 years of eligible service, you can retire at 60. And if you are 62, you can obtain immediate retirement after only five years of eligible government service. Although you can technically obtain immediate retirement with only ten years of government service once you arrive at your MRA, it will not be a full benefit. Instead, it will be reduced by 5% for each year that you are under 62.  Completing an Application for Immediate Retirement (FERS) The essential form for an immediate retirement application is Standard Form (SF) 3107. There are several parts to the SF 3107, and completing it requires your agency’s involvement. Fortunately, the form comes with instructions, and you can complete the main portion of the form yourself. However, you’ll need to know: Your agency will complete a copy of SF 3107-1, a certified record of your federal service.  If you select a spouse to receive benefits, they must submit a copy of SF 3107-2 to certify their acceptance of the annuity arrangements. Do I Need a Lawyer to File for FERS Immediate Retirement? No. It is possible to complete your FERS application on your own. That said, having an attorney significantly eases the application process. There are several reasons for this. First, an attorney can help you understand your eligibility for immediate retirement under FERS, including age and service requirements. They can also assist in calculating your retirement benefits so that you completely understand your entitlements. Once you are ready to apply for retirement, an attorney can review your application for errors or complete it themselves. This reduces the chance that you will face delays or a rejected application because of an accidental oversight. Moreover, an attorney can interface with your agency to streamline the application process. This service is essential because agency staffing departments regularly fail to complete a copy of SF 3107-1. Or they respond slowly to incoming applications unless there is an outside party prodding them along.  In the worst scenarios, agencies can sabotage your retirement application because of illegal discrimination and retaliation. An attorney can rectify this issue by holding your agency accountable and initiating litigation if necessary. We’re Ready to Give Your Career the Stellar Ending It Deserves After years or decades of dedicated government service, the last thing you want is a big fight over your retirement. Whether you need assistance understanding your anticipated annuity or help pushing your application along, the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, is standing by. Because we represent federal employees exclusively, we have extensive experience with various retirement applications. We also prioritize client communication and representation. When you work with us, you’re not just a number. You’re family. Call us today or contact us online to set up your first appointment.

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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 EEOC

Overview of Federal EEOC Complaint Process

No matter what your job is, you may encounter discrimination in the workplace during your career. There are several laws the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces that protect federal employees from discrimination. But what is the federal EEOC complaint process? If you find yourself the victim of discrimination in the federal workplace, it’s important to understand your rights and how to enforce them with an EEOC complaint. For immediate assistance, please don’t hesitate to send a message or call us at (833) 833-3529 today. Complaints alleging prohibited personnel practices should be directed to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OSC receives, investigates, and prosecutes allegations of prohibited personnel practices. Information can be found at https://osc.gov/. Here is a breakdown of the 6-Step Federal EEOC Complaint Process. The 6 Steps in the EEOC Complaints Process 1. Contact Your EEO Counselor Each agency has an equal employment opportunity counselor. Before filing a formal complaint with the EEOC, the first step of the federal EEO complaint process is to contact your agency’s EEO counselor within 45 days of the discrimination. Note that some agencies will use different terms for this office, such as the Office of Resolution Management (ORM) at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The EEO counselor will provide information about how a federal EEO complaint works. At this step, your counselor will provide details about the EEO process, including approximate timelines and your appeal rights. They will usually ask for information about your claims and bases too. Where applicable, you may also have the option to go through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This step is also when you must choose whether to file your complaint through the EEO, negotiated grievance, or the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) processes, if applicable. Not all cases have this choice, but when you do, federal employees may choose only one of these two paths and the option first chosen is generally considered to be your election. If you’re unsure where you should file your federal EEOC complaint, consider consulting a federal EEOC lawyer. Understanding Which Laws the EEOC Enforces The EEOC enforces four federal anti-discrimination laws: Together, these laws protect against discrimination based on a number of characteristics, including race, color, sex and sexual orientation, religion or national origin, age, and disability. Additionally, the EEOC works to protect employees from retaliation by their superiors or agency. 2. Filing a Formal Complaint If you can’t resolve the issue through counseling or ADR, your counselor will provide you with a written Notice of Right to File Formal Complaint, and provide a final Interview. This notice gives you the right to file a formal complaint with your Agency’s EEO office within 15 days. Read the Notice carefully for instructions on where to send your complaint. Generally you can file your Formal EEO complaint by mail or email. Each complaint must be properly drafted to include at least: After you submit your complaint, will review it to decide whether to conduct an investigation. 3. Your Agency Conducts an Investigation If your Agency accepts your claims, your agency will have to conduct an investigation into the alleged discrimination. Once the investigation is complete, you may request a hearing before an administrative judge, or you can request an immediate final decision for your EEOC complaint from your agency. 4. Hearing Before an Administrative Judge Like other court proceedings, an EEOC hearing involves presenting your case to an administrative judge. Each party also has the opportunity to conduct discovery to obtain additional information. At the end of the hearing, the judge will review the record and issue a decision about whether there was discrimination. In some cases, a federal employee may not need to request a hearing. Accordingly, hearings do not always happen as part of the federal EEOC complaint process. 5. Your Agency Issues a Final Decision Whether you choose a hearing or not, the final main step is your agency’s final decision. The agency will review the judge’s final order or the evidence from the investigation and notify you whether it found any discrimination. If there was discrimination, the agency may implement the judge’s orders or its own remedy. Because final decisions may not be in the employee’s favor, federal employees have the right to appeal a final agency action to the EEOC’s appellate division, the Office of Federal Operations (OFO). 6. Appealing to the EEOC You may appeal your agency’s decision to the OFO within 30 days of that decision. During the appeal process, the OFO will review the entire history of your complaint and the evidence in the record. The OFO will then issue its own determination of whether there was any discrimination. Having a federal EEOC lawyer is the best way to make sure your arguments are properly presented in this case. Contact a Federal EEOC Lawyer The federal EEOC complaint process looks long and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. The attorneys at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC have years of experience representing federal employees in a variety of employment matters. If you’ve suffered discrimination and need help with your EEOC complaint, we can help. Contact us today online or at (833) 833-3529.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Workplace Discrimination

Understanding Religious Discrimination in the Federal Workplace

Religious freedom is one of the greatest liberties in American society. Thanks to the First Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans may practice their religious belief (or non-belief) without fear of religious discrimination in the workplace. Consequently, if you think you are experiencing religious discrimination, you should contact a federal employment attorney right away. What Is Religious Discrimination? Most Americans understand that religious discrimination is prohibited by law. Not as many understand religious discrimination’s exact definition as it applies to the federal workplace.  Put simply, religious discrimination is any negative treatment of an employee or applicant because of that employee’s religion. In the workplace, religious discrimination is legally prohibited across all facets of employment. This encompasses hiring, firing, compensation, job assignments, and the classification of employees. Additionally, harassment based on an individual’s religion is strictly forbidden. The prohibition against religious discrimination is very broad. In fact, religious discrimination law protects not only adherents of major global religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It also shields those who follow little-known faiths and all those who have any kind of sincerely held religious or moral beliefs. This means that atheists and agnostics are also protected against religious discrimination in the workplace.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids religious discrimination in any and all aspects of employment. This includes things like hiring, firing, compensation, promotions, training, work schedule, and job assignments.  The definition of religious discrimination includes harassment as well. Religious harassment refers to several different offensive behaviors aimed at someone because of their religion, including: However, any demeaning behavior that creates an objectively hostile or offensive work environment constitutes harassment. On the other hand, simple teasing and isolated incidents do not usually constitute illegal harassment. Unfortunately, there are situations where it can be difficult to tell if you are experiencing harassment. A knowledgeable federal employment attorney can help you make sense of your situation and move forward.  Examples of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace Religious discrimination is distressingly common. According to a 2019 Pew Research study, over 80% of Americans believe that members of at least one religion experience religious discrimination. Specifically, 82% of Americans said that Muslims experienced at least some religious discrimination, and 50% believed that Evangelical Christians were the target of at least some religious discrimination.  Yet what does religious discrimination actually look like? Here are a few examples of religious discrimination and harassment in the workplace: These are just a few examples. A qualified federal labor law attorney can help you understand if your situation constitutes religious discrimination or harassment.  Looking to Learn More About Religious Discrimination in the Workplace? Religious discrimination is no joke. It can cause isolation, depression, and burnout. It can be easy to feel defeated when you’re subjected to religious discrimination every day. But there’s good news. You have rights.  At the Federal Employment Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, our passion is helping federal employees stand up for their rights. We believe that no employee should have to deal with religious discrimination. Unlike many other firms, we focus exclusively on helping federal employees, which means we know what we’re doing.  Together, we can help you fight back against the discriminatory actors in your work environment. We can also help you receive just compensation for the losses you’ve experienced because of religious discrimination.  People are often reluctant to hire an attorney because they are anxious about money. We understand that, and we don’t want money to keep you from reaching out to us. There’s nothing to lose by giving us a call today at (866)612-5956 or contacting us online. Don’t wait. Let us help you!

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Workplace Harassment

What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment for Federal Employees? 

Federal law recognizes several kinds of sexual harassment. One category encompasses comments and behavior that target a person because of their sex. Another type involves unsolicited or unwanted sexual advances. In this article, we’ll zero in on quid pro quo sexual harassment, which is when someone at work offers you something in return for doing a sexual act for them.  Quid pro quo sexual harassment is often emotionally traumatizing and overwhelming for the victim. If you believe you’re facing quid pro quo sexual harassment, you must understand precisely what it is and how to respond. We’ll cover those topics and more in this piece. If you need more assistance after reading this page, contact a federal employment attorney immediately.    What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment? “Quid pro quo” is an old Latin phrase meaning “something given or received for something else.” Hence, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when someone at your work approaches you and demands sexual favors in exchange for something work-related. The harasser may promise you a promotion or pay raise if you deliver a sexual favor. Another typical example of quid pro quo sexual harassment is one in which the harasser threatens to hurt you or your career unless you do what they want. Whichever form quid pro quo sexual harassment takes, it constitutes illegal federal workplace harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. How to Prove Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment  Quid pro quo sexual harassment cases require establishing specific elements to hold your federal employer legally accountable. These elements may vary slightly depending on the case, but they generally include the following: Keep in mind that the law protects both existing employees and job applicants. Therefore, you can bring a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim if an agency official promises you employment if you give in to their sexual advances. Proving the Elements You can use different evidence to prove the elements of a quid pro quo claim. Examples include documentary evidence, such as emails, memorandums, informal notes, and meeting minutes. Statements from witnesses are also incredibly valuable, as are video and audio recordings. One of the best ways to prevail in your sexual harassment claim is always to make notes of any incidents of sexual harassment. Hiring an attorney also helps you collect valuable evidence because employment attorneys have the tools to obtain useful information from your employer.     Our Federal Employment Attorneys Can Help You Obtain the Compensation You Deserve Nobody should have to deal with sexual harassment, especially in the federal workplace. So, when sexual harassment happens, you must act quickly to hold the wrongdoer accountable. To maximize your chances of succeeding in your legal battle, get legal help immediately.  However, you shouldn’t go for just any attorney. There are many specialties of law, so one person can’t be an expert in every field. As you can imagine, a tax attorney will be of little assistance to you in a sexual harassment case. Instead, go with a group of dedicated, passionate federal employment lawyers. Reach out to the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC. Unlike most other firms, we take on only federal employment cases. On top of that, we have decades of experience vindicating the rights of employees and holding harassers accountable. Together, we can work to stop the harassment, bring peace of mind, and restore your career. Just phone us or visit our website to set up a free initial consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal EEOC

Filing an EEOC Complaint of Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination in the workplace is still shockingly common. Federal employees submit between 20,000 and 40,000 complaints of racial discrimination every year. Countless more incidents of racial complaints either resolve at an informal level or go completely unreported. As a result, every federal employee must know what racial discrimination is. In addition, they also need to know how to respond to it by filing a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).   If you are facing possible racial discrimination, then you’ll want to peruse this piece. We’ll first touch on what racial discrimination is under applicable law. Then, we will walk you through filing an EEOC complaint. Contact a dedicated team of federal employment attorneys today if you have additional questions or want legal advice on your specific legal situation.    Identifying Racial Discrimination Racial discrimination has been illegal in both federal and private workplaces since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But what exactly is racial discrimination? The simple definition is any unfavorable treatment of a person in employment because of their race. While it may sound simple enough, this definition has a few nuances to understand. For one, a person’s race includes their race and related characteristics. Examples of potential racial characteristics include a person’s hair type, facial structure, or skin color. In addition, “in employment” extends to every possible facet of a person’s job. Actions that can constitute racial discrimination include: Racial discrimination often goes hand-in-hand with color discrimination, which is unfavorable treatment because of your skin color. While the two issues are very similar, there can be vital differences. Many racial discrimination cases involve racial harassment, which is offensive behavior that makes your working environment objectively hostile.    Filing an EEOC Racial Discrimination Complaint  All EEOC racial discrimination complaints begin with a complaint to your agency’s local equal employment opportunity (EEO) office. It’s easy to initiate this. All you have to do is find your local EEO office’s contact information and report the discrimination to an EEO counselor. Contacting a counselor begins the information EEO complaint process. The counselor will try to resolve your claims through traditional counseling (which involves discussing your claims with your management) or mediation. You can choose which path to follow.  If you can’t resolve your complaint at this level, you will file a formal EEOC complaint with your agency. This triggers an investigation into the facts by a third-party investigator. The investigator will interview you, your management, the person responsible for the discrimination, and any witnesses to the behavior. They’ll also collect certain agency evidence. At the end of the investigation, the investigator will send you and your agency a Report of Investigation (ROI) that documents the factual landscape surrounding your complaint. You will also receive the right to request an EEOC hearing before an administrative judge or a Final Agency Decision.  Requesting an EEOC hearing with an administrative judge initiates formal litigation. It’s essential you have an attorney representing you by the time you request a hearing. The administrative judge will set an initial conference to discuss your claims and key procedural details. The judge will then allow the parties to conduct discovery and set a hearing date.  While you go through the discovery process and prepare for a hearing, you may have the opportunity to negotiate a fair settlement with your agency. Lawyers can be especially invaluable here because of their negotiation skills and experience. If you’re unable to negotiate a settlement, you’ll attend a hearing. The administrative judge will hear evidence from both parties and determine whether your claims have merit. You can choose to appeal an unfavorable decision.  Get the Experienced Legal Assistance You Deserve. As you can see, the EEOC complaint filing process is complex. It takes months or years to resolve and involves many specific deadlines and procedural requirements. Failure to abide by these deadlines can torpedo your case and jeopardize your career.  To ensure you get the best outcome possible, contact the team at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing. Our entire practice revolves around defending the rights of federal employees. That means we know how to effectively assess your legal needs and brainstorm the best strategies for resolving your case. Furthermore, it costs nothing to have an initial consultation with us. Call today or visit our website to get going.  

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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 | Federal Retirement

Federal Employee Retirement Survivor Benefits Explained

It is well known that federal employment offers many valuable benefits. Chief among these benefits is the generous federal retirement package. The retirement program in the federal government is the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which Congress created in 1986. In addition to retirement benefits, FERS features survivor death benefits in some cases. Specifically, FERS survivor benefits grant a certain percentage of a deceased federal employee’s annual benefit amount to a current or former spouse. This article will discuss the key details of federal retirement survivor benefits, but it is always a good idea to reach out to a qualified federal employment attorney for additional information.  How Many Types of FERS Survivor Benefits Are Available?  The recipient of a deceased federal employee can receive three kinds of benefits. The first type is the current spouse survivor annuity. As the name implies, this benefit is payable only to the person who was the current spouse of the federal employee at the time of the employee’s death. The second kind of benefit is an annuity for former spouses. The former spouse annuity can arise when the deceased employee voluntarily chose to establish it before their death. Alternatively, courts can also award annuities to former spouses through a divorce decree, provided it was granted after May 7, 1985. The third and final type of benefit is a one-time lump sum benefit. These three FERS survivor benefits are available only if the employee died while employed with the federal government.  How Much Can a Current or Former Spouse Receive in FERS Survivor Benefits? If you are a beneficiary of a deceased employee who retired under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), you may be eligible for survivor benefits, which amount to 50 percent of the employee’s unreduced annual benefit. The federal employee’s annual benefit will depend on the deceased employee’s time in government service, age, and pay level. The federal employee has a large role in deciding how much their survivor benefits are, even to the point of deciding the spouse receives no survivor benefit. They can also elect for the spouse to have a partially reduced annuity or a fully reduced annuity.  How Long Do FERS Survivor Benefits Last? Surviving spouse annuities (whether to former or current spouses) continue for the life of the spouse unless the spouse remarries before they reach age 55. There is an exception to this rule, however, if the spouse and employee were married for over 30 years. In that case, the spouse of the deceased employee will receive annuity payments regardless of whether they remarry or not.  Curious to Learn More About FERS Survivor Benefits? It is very difficult it is to lose a spouse. We understand that sorting out financial matters is probably the last thing you want to deal with when your spouse passes away. On top of that, the world of federal retirement survivor benefits is often difficult to navigate on your own. If your deceased spouse was a federal employee, we can help ensure that you obtain the benefits that they intended you to have.  Here at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, we are dedicated to assisting with all kinds of federal employment matters. We care about all of our clients, and we are passionate about ensuring that they obtain the compensation they deserve. We have many years of experience successfully helping our clients—as our client reviews show. Together, we can work with you to help maximize your FERS survivor benefits.  Many people wrongly believe that hiring an attorney will cost them a small fortune. However, we don’t want money problems to prevent people from reaching out and consulting us. Don’t lose out on obtaining the federal retirement benefits you rightfully deserve. Contact us today.

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