| Read Time: 2 minutes | FERS Disability

Is Federal Disability Retirement Income Taxable?

If you have been a federal employee and are seeking to receive disability retirement income, you might have to pay taxes on that income. This isn’t pleasant news, but the following article can help you prepare for what’s next.  Common Kinds of Federal Disability Retirement Income The first step federal employees should take to understand their tax liabilities on federal disability retirement payments is to understand what kind of federal benefits they’re receiving. Common retirement benefits a federal employee might receive include:  Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Disability retirement income from the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), Disability retirement income from the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), Military Disability Retirement Pay (MDRP, and Veterans’ benefits. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) handles many matters related to FERS and CSRS payments.  Some of the above-listed benefits are taxable, and some aren’t. For payments and benefits that are taxable, they are taxable at different levels.   Is OPM Disability Retirement Taxable at the Federal Level? OPM oversees matters regarding FERS and CSRS disability retirement payments.  Is FERS disability retirement taxable at the federal level? Some FERS disability retirement is taxable.  Individuals can receive FERS disability retirement if they have certain characteristics, including: Completion of at least 18 months of creditable Federal civilian service, A disabling condition that affects their work and is expected to last for at least a year, The inability to receive accommodations from their employer, and Status as an applicant or recipient of Social Security benefits. Recipients of a FERS disability retirement annuity do show these benefits as taxable income. Is CSRS disability retirement federally taxable? Some CSRS disability retirement is federally taxable. An eligible recipient of CSRS disability retirement must:  Have at least five years of creditable Federal civilian service to their name, Have a disability they incurred while they were employed in a job subject to CSRS and that prevents them from working that job, Have a qualifying disability expected to last a year or longer, and Have certification that their employer cannot accommodate them.  CSRS retirement disability recipients also must pay tax on their benefits.  Whether you are seeking CSRS or FERS retirement disability benefits, you have a limited amount of time to apply for them. You also have to follow specific rules to maintain them. This can be overwhelming when you are trying to handle a disability. An experienced federal employment disability lawyer can recover your benefits while you adjust to changes in your life.  Income Tax Rules from Your State Can Differ While some of your disability retirement benefits might not be federally taxable, your benefits could be subject to state income taxes.  Contact an Attorney Today to Protect What Is Yours It’s stressful to determine how much vital income you can keep when you’re receiving benefits for a debilitating condition. But you don’t have to figure this out on your own. At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, we have helped hundreds of federal employees with their employment issues. We have substantial experience, and we are passionate about helping federal employees. Let us help you. Contact us online or call us at 866-508-2158 for a free consultation. 

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Wrongful Termination

Constructive Discharge vs Wrongful Termination—What Is the Difference?

If you felt forced to leave your job because the environment was unbearable, the terms constructive discharge and wrongful termination may come to mind.  While both terms relate to ending employment, the main difference between wrongful termination and constructive discharge is the person who ends the employment relationship. In constructive discharge cases, the employee terminates the relationship, whereas in wrongful termination cases, the employer ends it. In this article, we will explore what is constructive discharge and how to prove you were constructively discharged. What Is Constructive Discharge? Constructive discharge occurs when an employee resigns due to intolerable working conditions. Rather than being fired, the employee voluntarily quits because they feel there is no other reasonable alternative. Here are some common examples of working conditions that may be grounds for a constructive discharge claim: Sexual harassment; Hostile work environment; Illegal discrimination based on sex, race, religion, etc.; Retaliation against an employee who filed a valid complaint; and Bullying in the workplace by co-workers or supervisors. While it’s easy to define constructive discharge, proving it can be more difficult.  How Does an Employee Prove Constructive Discharge? Quitting your job because of unfair treatment is not enough to bring a constructive discharge claim.  Rather, the employee must be able to prove the following: The working conditions were so intolerable that any reasonable person would quit; and  The employee quit because of the intolerable conditions. Intolerable work conditions can include sexual harassment, discriminatory practices, violent acts, illegal requests, and coercive or deceptive conduct. You do not have to prove that your employer intended for you to quit but only that their actions are what made you believe you had to resign and that any reasonable person would have done the same.  When an employee voluntarily leaves a job, typically they lose the right to unemployment benefits, due process through their employer, and bringing a wrongful discharge claim. This incentivizes the employer to create an intolerable environment and force the employee out rather than firing the employee.  How Long Does a Federal Employee Have to Bring a Constructive Discharge Claim? To file a constructive discharge claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), federal employees have 45 days from the date the employee resigns, not the date of the last intolerable act or acts. There are different deadlines if you are bringing your claim through the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), generally 30 days from the date of resignation.  To ensure you do not miss the filing deadline or lose the opportunity to protect your rights, consult with an experienced federal employment lawyer as soon as possible.  Contact the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing Our attorneys will evaluate the events surrounding your employment resignation to determine whether you can bring a constructive discharge claim against your employer. We dedicate our practice to protecting the rights of federal employees. Let us fight for you. Contact us today for a free consultation by calling 866-690-8076 or filling out our contact form online.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What is Federal Sick Leave Abuse

Federal employees may at times face the temptation to call in sick so they can have an unscheduled day off. Abuse of sick leave in the federal workplace is a serious issue that all federal employees should try to avoid. Sick leave abuse laws exist which can carry significant penalties for those who misuse their sick leave. There are also a few ways that supervisors can spot and investigate sick leave abuse by federal employees. If your supervisor has accused you of being a federal employee who’s committed sick leave abuse, contact a federal employee sick leave abuse lawyer right away.  When Is It Okay to Use Sick Leave? The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a federal agency that regulates the employment policies of most other federal  agencies, states that federal employees may use sick leave when they need to:  Attend to their own personal medical needs; Care for a family member with a serious health condition; Attend a funeral for a family member; or Carry out adoption-related activities.  OPM does not define what constitutes an abuse of sick leave. That said, it’s reasonable to assume that any use of sick leave for reasons other than those listed above could constitute “sick leave abuse,” especially if done repeatedly and within a short period of time.  Common signs of sick leave abuse are: Taking sick leave on a regular, periodic basis (like every other Friday); Taking excessive amounts of sick leave; and Providing little or no evidence supporting their alleged reason for taking sick leave. If an agency discovers that an employee is committing OPM sick leave abuse, the employee can face discipline. An employee can even face removal from federal service.  What Employers Can Do About Sick Leave Abuse While OPM does not define sick leave abuse, it does establish procedures for employers to require evidence from employees who request sick leave. Specifically, an agency may require “administratively acceptable evidence” before granting sick leave. The definition of “administratively acceptable evidence.” For example, if an employee requests sick leave to care for a family member, the agency may require that the employee provide proof of their relationship with the family member. If an employee claims sick leave to visit a doctor, the agency can request a doctor’s note that confirms the visit.  Do You Need a Federal Sick Leave Abuse Attorney? Accusations of sick leave abuse are no joke. If you have been accused of abusing sick leave, you could be counseled, reprimanded, suspended, or even removed from your job. So if your supervisor has accused you of sick leave abuse, you need to contact a sick leave abuse attorney immediately.  When looking for an attorney that can help you defend your rights, it’s absolutely essential that you select someone who has familiarity with your situation and the federal workplace.  At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing,  PLLC., we concentrate on representing federal employees and protecting their rights. Our firm has the experience needed to help federal employees who have been accused of misconduct. Even if you aren’t sure whether you need an attorney, it takes no time at all to contact us. All initial consultations are free, so don’t take any chances with your career. Contact us today.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

What Is Bullying Under Federal Law?

If you have suffered bullying in the workplace, you might be able to receive relief under federal law if the bullying has certain characteristics. As a federal employee, you can maintain a legal action for bullying if that bullying also qualifies as harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. If you are unsure if bullying at work is actionable, don’t resign yourself to the stress and fear, contact an experienced workplace bullying lawyer immediately for help. Is Workplace Bullying Illegal? It depends. Federal work bullying laws are really laws against harassment. Employment bullying qualifies as illegal harassment if it’s a condition to continue your employment or it’s severe and pervasive enough for a reasonable person to consider it hostile. Bullying cannot be illegal harassment unless it’s unwelcome conduct motivated by one of the following factors: Race, Color, Religion, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender identity, Pregnancy,  Age (if you are 40 or older), Disability, Genetic information, Family history, or Medical history. Your employer can be guilty of harassing you for being a member of a protected group mentioned above or for perceiving you to be a member of a protected group. Your employer can be liable for harassment committed by a supervisor, one of their agents, a co-worker, or a non-employee. You also don’t have to be the person harassed to maintain a legal action. If harassment of another person affects you, you could have a claim.  Can I Sue for Workplace Bullying? Yes. Legal action against workplace bullying is available to you if the bullying fits the definition of harassment under federal law. However, federal employees can bring workplace bullying lawsuits only after they have followed the steps to make an administrative complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office.  What Is the Procedure for Filing Workplace Bullying Complaints and Workplace Bullying Lawsuits? There are many steps on the way to filing a lawsuit against your employer for harassment. Suing for workplace bullying can be a complicated process, and a lawyer for workplace bullying can help you fulfill every step. Filing a Workplace Bullying Complaint If you are a federal employee, bullying in the workplace law requires that you first reach out to an EEO counselor at your employer’s agency within 45 days of suffering harassment. You can either take part in counseling or alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  If ADR or counseling doesn’t solve the problem, you can file a formal complaint with your agency’s EEO office. You have 15 days after receiving an EEO counselor’s filing notice to file a complaint.  The agency can either dismiss your complaint for procedural reasons, or conduct an investigation. The agency has 180 days to investigate. After investigating, the agency gives you a notice about asking for a hearing or issuing a decision about whether there was discrimination.  If you want a hearing, it is held before an administrative law judge. You have 30 days from the agency’s hearing notice to file for a hearing. You can request a hearing in writing or online. After the judge makes a decision, the agency gets 40 days to decide if they are going to grant you relief that the judge orders. This decision is called a final order.  If you don’t agree with the final order, you can request an appeal within 30 days. You can also ask for reconsideration of the appeal decision within 30 days. If you follow the procedure correctly, you have many chances to get justice against harassment. An experienced attorney for workplace bullying can preserve your rights at every level of the process.  Filing a Workplace Bullying Lawsuit Once you have been through the administrative complaint and appeals process, you can file a bullying-at-work lawsuit. There are a number of different times when you can file a lawsuit, depending on the situation. To file a lawsuit against your employer for violating laws against workplace bullying, you have to follow these timelines: You can file after 180 days have passed since filing your complaint, if there hasn’t been an agency decision or appeal; You must file within 90 days of receiving an agency decision on your complaint, if there hasn’t been an appeal; You can file after 180 days have passed since filing your appeal, if there hasn’t been an appeal decision; or You must file within 90 days of receiving an appeal decision. A workplace bullying attorney can determine if the time is right for you to file a lawsuit and champion your rights to a safe workplace in court. If you are curious about workplace anti-bullying laws by state, many of them are similar to the federal laws (though deadlines and procedures vary). But you must follow the federal procedures above if you are a federal employee.  Contact an Attorney for the Protection You Need Please remember that you don’t have to endure every hostile behavior at work to receive a paycheck. The workplace bullying lawyers at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC are experienced in federal employment law and dedicated to protecting federal employees’ rights. Contact us online or call us at 866-508-2158 for the guidance and protection you need.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination in the Workplace—What You Should Know

We all know that discrimination in the workplace is unacceptable, and we all know that no federal employee should have to put up with it. However, not everyone knows that all kinds of discrimination are illegal. When most people imagine a discriminatory situation, they imagine racial minorities as the victims of racial “majorities.” They may be more accepting of discrimination when it operates in “reverse.” However, so-called reverse race discrimination is equally wrong and just as illegal as “regular” discrimination.  At this point, you might be asking yourself, What is reverse discrimination? In this article, we will discuss reverse discrimination’s definition and the situations which best describe reverse discrimination.  If you think that you are the victim of reverse race discrimination, contact a workplace discrimination lawyer right away.  What Is Reverse Discrimination? The definition of reverse race discrimination can be difficult to describe, and the term itself is controversial in some circles. The simplest definition is this—reverse discrimination occurs when a majority group is discriminated against by a minority group. Reverse race discrimination, for example, occurs in situations where historic racial minorities (like blacks or Hispanics) discriminate against white Americans based on their skin color.  The fact that the target of discrimination belongs to a majority group does not exclude them from the protection of workplace discrimination laws. Discrimination is discrimination. It does not matter whether the victim is white, black, Christian, Muslim, handicapped, or able-bodied. Workplace discrimination lawyers know that discrimination laws apply to all groups, and can help any victim of any form of discrimination.  Which of the Following Is an Example of Reverse Discrimination? Let’s consider a few examples of discrimination to understand which of the following situations constitute reverse discrimination: An African-American boss repeatedly harasses his white subordinate because of his race, uses racial slurs, and denies him a promotion because the subordinate is “way too white for this office”;  A woman repeatedly makes derogatory sex-based comments to her male co-worker, frequently derides him as “just another stupid man,” and tells him that a woman could do his job better; A Christian employee humiliates his Hindu colleague by trying to make him eat beef and telling him that his faith “has too many Gods.” Which of the following is an example of reverse discrimination in America? If you guessed the first two scenarios, you’d be correct. The first scenario was reverse race discrimination because a black man, a member of a racial minority, was discriminating against a white man based on race. Similarly, the second scenario also constituted reverse discrimination. Sex-based discrimination has historically targeted women, so reverse discrimination occurred because a woman was making condescending sex-based comments to a man. However, the third scenario was not reverse discrimination because Christianity is a majority religion in the United States. So while the Christian in that scenario was harassing and potentially discriminating against their Hindu coworker, that would constitute normal discrimination of a minority.  What Should I Do If I Am the Victim of Reverse Discrimination? Discrimination is discrimination no matter what the victim’s race, gender, or religion is. If you are experiencing reverse discrimination, consider taking the following actions: Tell the offender to stop, if you feel comfortable doing so; Record your interactions with the individual; Consult a supervisor about the problem if possible; and Go speak to someone in your agency’s EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) office. After you have taken these first steps, you need to consider hiring an attorney who handles cases of discrimination at work. Hiring an attorney for employment discrimination can help to resolve the reverse discrimination problem quickly. Furthermore, employment discrimination attorneys are familiar with all kinds of discrimination and can evaluate your case to see if you are eligible to obtain compensation. Finally, if you file a complaint against your agency, a federal employment workplace discrimination lawyer can help your case by collecting evidence, obtaining witnesses, and conducting settlement negotiations. Do You Need a Workplace Discrimination Attorney? Employment discrimination is always wrong, whether it is reverse discrimination or not. Now that you know reverse discrimination’s definition, you will know when to contact an employment discrimination attorney.  If you are currently experiencing such discrimination, you need an employment discrimination attorney right away. However, not all attorneys are of the same quality. Therefore, it is critical that you hire an attorney that has experience with your kind of case and is familiar with the unique features of the federal workplace.  Here at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC, we are dedicated to helping federal employees stand up for their rights. Over the years, our firm has helped countless federal employees with all kinds of discrimination complaints. Unlike other law firms, we are familiar with all of the dynamics of the federal workplace. We will help you stand up for your rights and hold discriminatory actors accountable. Even if you don’t know whether you need an attorney, you have nothing to lose by setting up an appointment. All of our initial consultations are free, so contact us right away.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Federal Retirement

What to Know About Federal Medical Retirement

If you’re a federal government worker with a medical condition, you may be able to take advantage of the federal government’s medical retirement. Civil service medical retirement is possible if you are a civil servant with a disabling medical condition. However, your agency first needs to determine that it cannot accommodate or reassign you. If you are in the army national guard or the reserves, you will have to follow a different medical retirement process.  OPM’s Medical Retirement Definition and Eligibility Requirements According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), medical retirement (or disability retirement) is available for employees with disabling medical conditions who cannot work effectively for their agency. Specifically, employees are eligible for federal government medical retirement if: They have completed at least 18 months of creditable federal civilian service under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS); They have become disabled because of a medical condition, such as a disease or injury; Their disability is expected to last at least one year; Their agency is unable to effectively accommodate their disability in the employee’s current position; and The employee’s agency cannot reassign the employee to another vacant position (often because no such positions exist). An employee must also apply for Social Security disability benefits before applying for federal government medical retirement. Finally, they must apply for disability retirement within one year of separation.  Need Help with Planning Your Federal Medical Retirement? Medical retirement in the government is complicated. That’s true whether you follow OPM’s medical retirement process as a civil servant or the IDES process. On top of that, the federal government often makes mistakes. Even the smallest mistake regarding your medical condition could turn your medical disability retirement plans upside down.  For those reasons, if you are considering applying for medical retirement, your best choice is to contact a knowledgeable federal employment attorney.  At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing PLLC, we handle all kinds of federal employment cases. Over the years, our firm has helped many federal employees with medical retirement issues. We aim to help you access your rights as a federal employee. All our initial consultations are free, so contact us right away.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Workplace Harassment

What Is Unlawful Harassment Under Federal Law?

Unlawful harassment occurs when an employer treats a person or group differently from others who are similarly situated. If you work for the federal government and believe that you have experienced unlawful workplace harassment, there is a specific procedure you must follow to get relief. Today, we will discuss the basics of what constitutes harassment under federal law, and what federal employees can do about it. If you believe you have experienced unlawful harassment in your federal workplace, you may be available in your situation. Contact an experienced federal employment lawyer by sending an online message or calling our firm at (866) 626-5325 today. What Is Unlawful Harassment? Unlawful harassment is a form of employment discrimination, violating multiple federal acts designed to provide equal rights to all employees. These include: Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).  This conduct could be based on race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, religion, national origin, age, genetic information, or disability. Types of Unlawful Workplace Harassment Conduct Unlawful harassment can include verbal, written, visual, or physical conduct. Verbal or Written Harassment  Verbal harassment may include insults, derogatory slurs or comments, or name-calling. Invasive questions about a person’s body, appearance, clothing, customs, or sexual activity may also qualify as unlawful workplace harassment. Verbal harassment includes written, emailed, or text statements.  Visual Harassment Visual harassment can be harder to detect or prove. But examples include offensive gestures, sexually suggestive noises, hostile eye contact, and derogatory or offensive images. Offensive images can come in many forms, including images on the clothing someone wears to work. Physical Harassment Physical harassment can include unwanted proximity. This can include following, standing close to, or actually touching someone. Sexually suggestive hand gestures or facial expressions can be categorized as physical harassment as well, even if there is no actual contact. And of course, actually touching someone else’s body without permission in any type of sexual or unwanted manner is prohibited. What Is Unlawful Retaliation? Retaliation is a specific form of discrimination that may occur in response to an employee making a good faith complaint about workplace harassment or discrimination. Retaliation can also happen in response to the refusal of sexual advances or defending others from advances. Requests for disability or religious accommodations may also be met with retaliation. Unlawful retaliation occurs when an employer changes the terms of employment such as responsibilities, pay, schedule, or other factors as a form of punishment.  What Three Factors Are Commonly Used to Determine Unlawful Workplace Harassment?  Not all offensive actions rise to the level of illegality. Petty slights, annoyances, or isolated incidents, though bothersome, may not be severe enough to constitute a claim for unlawful harassment. According to the EEOC, there are three factors commonly used to determine unlawful workplace harassment:  Whether the harassment was extensive enough to create a hostile or intolerable work environment for the employee; Whether the victim tolerated the harassment to keep or obtain their job; and Whether the harassment was a retaliatory response to an employee filing or participating in a complaint. If any of these factors are applicable in your situation, you may be eligible for financial compensation.  Process of Filing a Formal Unlawful Workplace Harassment Complaint for Federal Employees If you have experienced unlawful harassment in a federal workplace, you have options to assert your rights. It is important to note that these are legal remedies, and the best way to achieve the results you deserve is to hire an experienced federal EEOC attorney.  Contact Your EEO Counselor Each federal agency has an EEO counselor. Contact your designated counselor within 45 days of when the discrimination occurred. This is the first step prior to filing a formal complaint with the EEOC. The counselor can walk you through the process. You may have multiple options for filing. An experienced EEOC attorney can guide you through this process.  Alternative Dispute Resolution After speaking with your EEO counselor, federal employees may participate in alternative dispute resolution. This typically means mediation and is a good opportunity to try to resolve issues at the lowest level. However, if this does not resolve the problem, it may be time to file a formal complaint. File a Formal Complaint If your unlawful workplace harassment dispute cannot be resolved using alternative dispute resolution, your EEO counselor will provide you with a written notice that gives you the right to file a formal complaint within 15 days. The notice will explain how to properly file the formal complaint.  Agency Investigation Once the agency accepts your discrimination claim, they will initiate an investigation. Upon completion of the investigation, you may request an immediate final decision or a hearing before an administrative judge.  Hearing Before an Administrative Judge Hearings are not always a part of the EEOC formal complaint process depending on your claim. During the hearing, your case is presented to the judge who reviews information from both sides and makes a decision whether or not there was discrimination.  Final Decision and Appeal The federal agency will review the judge’s decision. If the judge found unlawful harassment, the agency can implement the judge’s orders or its own remedy. Federal employees may still appeal to the EEOC’s appellate division, the Office of Federal Operation (OFO), within 30 days if the remedy is unfavorable.  Suing for Unlawful Workplace Harassment The Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, can help you understand your complaint and the financial impact of the harassment. Our team is passionate about helping federal employees assert their rights and can help you collect evidence and build your case. Contact us online today or call (866) 626-5325 for your free case consultation.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Employment Law

Filing Workers’ Comp for Stress and Anxiety—What Federal Employees Should Know

Most federal workers are familiar with the workers’ compensation program, operated by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). The OWCP allows for workers who suffer a work-related injury to obtain medical and income-replacement benefits while they are unable to work. What fewer people know, however, is that federal employees can also obtain workers’ compensation for mental health disorders as well. Read on to learn more about when you can get workers’ comp benefits for stress and anxiety. If your federal employment is responsible for causing or exacerbating a mental health condition, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, we proudly help government employees who were injured on the job obtain the benefits they need and deserve. With extensive experience handling a wide range of workers’ compensation cases, including many involving mental health diagnoses, the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing is well-equipped to effectively handle your claim. Stress and Anxiety in the Workplace Stress Stress is the body’s normal response to emotional or physical tension. In some cases, stress can help you overcome obstacles that you may not have otherwise been able to overcome. However, in larger amounts, stress can be detrimental to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. According to a recent survey done by the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers experience high levels of stress in the workplace. And roughly a quarter of all participants indicated that their job was the primary source of their stress. Of course, this may not come as news, as every job can occasionally be stressful. However, there is a point where the everyday stress of a job crosses the line and becomes something more damaging. Anxiety Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental health condition in which someone displays excessive anxiety or worry on most days, for a period of at least six months. Generalized anxiety disorder often seriously interferes with someone’s ability to live their life the way they intended. For example, common symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include the following. Irritability, Drowsiness, Inattentiveness, Feeling on-edge, Muscle tension, and Sleep problems. Panic attacks are another form of anxiety disorder in which someone experiences unexpected periods of intense fear that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes. Symptoms of a panic attack include: Heart palpitations, Trembling, Shortness of breath, Sweating, Feelings of doom, and Feeling out of control. Panic attacks can be very scary and sometimes require immediate medical attention.  Can You Get Workers’ Compensation for Stress and Anxiety? Yes, federal workers can obtain workers’ compensation benefits for stress and stress-related conditions such as anxiety. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering filing an application for workers’ comp for stress and anxiety. If you have a diagnosis of anxiety, you will have an easier time obtaining benefits than if you are basing a workers’ compensation claim on stress alone. However, you will still need to show that your anxiety was either caused by your job or that your job exacerbated your existing case of anxiety. Applying for workers’ compensation benefits for stress is even trickier because there is often no diagnosis. When it comes to getting workers’ compensation for stress, consider the following questions. Is the stress severe? Regular, everyday stress is not the type of stress that the OWCP is concerned with. Stress is a normal part of almost every job, yet not everyone can rightfully file a workers’ comp stress claim. Thus, to be eligible, you must show that your occupational stress is severe, to the point where it is more than you can withstand. Is your job objectively stressful? If you find your job to be very stressful, but your colleagues do not, you may have a harder time qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits. This is because you must show that your stress is objective to obtain benefits. This means that others in a similar situation experience the same level of stress. So, if you are particularly susceptible to the stressors of your workplace, you may have a harder time obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for stress. Is your stress job-related? To succeed in any workers’ comp claim, you must show that your injuries (physical or emotional) are related to your occupation. Stress is no exception. In fact, it is actually more difficult to prove stress is job-related because most people have other sources of stress in their life. For example, the OWCP may claim that your stress was caused by genetic factors or issues outside the workplace. Are You Suffering Severe Stress or Anxiety Related to Your Federal Employment? If you are a federal employee and are currently suffering from stress or anxiety, contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing for immediate assistance. At our federal workers’ compensation law firm, we represent federal employees in all types of work injury claims—including those involving mental health conditions such as stress and anxiety. Unlike many other local employment law firms, we represent only federal employees, giving us an unparalleled knowledge of the laws and regulations that govern our clients’ cases. To learn more, and to schedule, a free consultation, give us a call today. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Workplace Discrimination

Federal Hostile Work Environment–What to Know

Discrimination in the workplace is illegal under federal law. In some cases, it is clear your employer is discriminating against you. However, that is not always the case. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discrimination is grossly underreported. In fact, the EEOC reports that three out of four employees who experience harassment on the job don’t do anything about it. While several factors contribute to this, one reason why employees don’t report discrimination is that they aren’t able to identify it.  A hostile work environment is when the hostile actions of a fellow employee or manager objectively create an intimidating or threatening work environment. If you believe you are experiencing discrimination at the workplace, reach out to the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC. Attorney Wersing is a federal hostile work environment attorney with extensive experience handling all types of employment discrimination matters. He has successfully represented countless clients in hostile work environment claims, helping them stop illegal discrimination in the workplace. What Makes a Hostile Work Environment? Under federal law, discrimination is illegal when it is based upon an employee’s protected trait. A hostile work environment is a type of harassment, which is included in the definition of discrimination. A hostile work environment claim is based on an employer allowing an intimidating environment to exist for one or more employees. Notably, it does not need to be a supervisor or a manager who creates a hostile work environment for an employer to be found liable. Hostile work environment claims can be filed when discrimination is based on any of the following traits: Age, Disability, Gender identity, Genetic information, National origin, Pregnancy, Race/Color, Religion, Sex, or Sexual orientation. At its core, a hostile work environment claim addresses the unacceptable situation where an employer allows severe or pervasive discrimination to take place on their watch. This “severe and pervasive” language is key, as minor annoyances or petty insults do not generally rise to the level of a hostile work environment. Typically, a one-time insult will not create a hostile work environment. However, if it is severe enough, it may. More often, hostile work environment claims are based on ongoing patterns of behavior. More specifically, the conduct must be such that a reasonable person would consider the conduct intimidating, hostile, or abusive. For example, the following can all contribute to a hostile work environment: Offensive jokes; Slurs or epithets; Ridicule or mockery; Insults; Physical threats; Name calling; Intimidation; The use of offensive objects; and The posting of offensive material. If you believe that your employer has allowed a hostile work environment to persist, reach out to a hostile work environment attorney for assistance. When Is an Employer Liable for Allowing a Hostile Work Environment? Hostile work environment claims come in two forms. The first type is when a manager, supervisor, or executive is the harassing party. In these situations, an employer is automatically liable if the harassment results in any negative employment outcome such as termination, lost wages, or a missed promotion. However, even if an employee does not suffer an adverse employment outcome, the employer will still be liable unless they can prove 1.) they tried to stop the harassing conduct, and 2.) the employee “unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.” The second type of hostile work environment claim involves a fellow employee’s harassing conduct. In these situations, it can be a bit harder to establish employer liability. To do so, you must show that the employer knew about the harassment (or should have known about it) and failed to take “prompt and corrective action.” For this reason, if you believe that you are being subjected to a hostile work environment, it is imperative that you register your concern with your employer. Not only will this allow your employer to remedy the situation, but it will also preserve your ability to file a federal hostile work environment claim against them if they fail to take your concerns seriously. Can an Employer Fire You for Reporting a Hostile Work Environment? Absolutely not. Employers are strictly prohibited from retaliating against an employee who reports any type of workplace discrimination, including a hostile work environment. The strength of your case is not important. The mere fact that you raised the claim (even if it later turns out your employer was not liable) protects you from any retaliation. If an employer retaliates against you for bringing a possible hostile work environment to their attention, you should immediately consult with a lawyer for hostile work environment claims. Contact a Federal Hostile Work Environment Lawyer for Immediate Assistance No one should live in fear of getting up and going to work. If your supervisors or colleagues are discriminating against you, you need hostile work environment attorneys who are ready to stand up for your rights. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, we proudly represent federal employees in all types of employment law disputes, including those involving hostile work environment claims against their federal employing agency. We have extensive experience bringing cases against all federal agencies across the country, and we are prepared to go up against them to preserve your right to a workplace free of hostility and discrimination. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a federal hostile work environment attorney today, give us a call. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Federal Employment Law

COVID-19 Paid Leave as a Federal Employee—What to Know

Since the COVID-19 Pandemic began last year, tens of millions of Americans have fallen sick with the disease. To help protect its workers and their families, the government has offered several benefits to federal workers who experience difficulties because of COVID-19.  If you’re one of the many federal employees with coronavirus, you’ve probably asked yourself, Do I get paid if I have COVID-19? The good news is that there is paid COVID-19 leave for federal workers who had the disease, been quarantined, or had to care for an ill family member. Take a moment to learn more about whether you are eligible for federal COVID-19 leave.  Is There Federal COVID-19 Leave? Yes. The latest effort to provide federal employees with leave began in March. At that time, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). ARPA included a provision that granted federal employees up to 15 weeks of emergency paid leave (EPL) under certain COVID-19-related circumstances. As outlined by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), employees can obtain COVID-19 leave if they meet one of eight qualifying circumstances. Here are several of those circumstances: The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; The employee is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or recovering after experiencing side effects from the vaccine;  The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine order that is based on COVID-19; The employee received advice from a doctor or other health care provider to quarantine due to COVID-19; The employee is caring for a family member who is subject to a COVID-19 quarantine order; or The employee is caring for their child because the child’s school or place of care is not open due to COVID-19.  To receive the paid sick leave, the employee must be unable to work at their office and unable to work from home because of the qualifying circumstance. Also, federal agencies cannot force any employee to use other forms of paid leave before requesting EPL.  Limitations of Federal COVID-19 Leave Under the American Rescue Plan Act Unlike regular paid sick leave, EPL has a monetary cap. An employee will receive 100% of their salary if that salary is less than $1,400 per week. EPL provides no compensation beyond that cap. Therefore, if you normally make $2,000 a week in your federal position, you’ll only receive $1,400 for each week you use EPL.  Also, there is a small window of time to use emergency paid leave. Employees can only use EPL between March 11 and September 30. 2021. Finally, the government set aside a limited amount of money—$570 million—to pay for emergency paid leave. If those funds run out before September 30, 2021, then you cannot receive EPL.  Who Processes EPL Claims? After you request EPL from your employer, they’ll decide whether or not to accept your request. Assuming they accept your claim, they will forward it to OPM for reimbursement. However, it may take time for OPM to resolve your claim because it processes EPL claims on a first-come, first-served basis. That’s one reason why it’s important to request EPL sooner rather than later.  What If I Had COVID-19 in 2020? You cannot request EPL if you had COVID-19 last year. Before passing ARPA, the government offered federal COVID-19 leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. After Congress passed the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, OPM released clarifying guidance for all federal agencies. According to that guidance, EPSLA gave employees up to 80 hours of paid leave if they were in quarantine, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or caring for a family member. EPSLA’s paid sick leave equaled 100% of the employee’s regular pay if the employee was in quarantine or had COVID-19 symptoms. Unlike EPL, EPSLA’s COVID-19 leave did not have a pay cap.  So Do I Get Paid If I Have COVID? Yes and no. There isn’t a law that gives COVID-19 payments specifically to federal employees. However, federal employees indirectly receive payments through EPL because it is paid leave. Moreover, any federal employee who made less than a certain amount of money ($75,000 for an individual or $150,000 for a couple) received stimulus checks earlier this year.  Is Your Employer Giving You the Federal COVID-19 Leave that You Deserve? Getting COVID-19 can be a devastating experience with long-lasting effects. Because of that, the new federal COVID-19 leave law grants you special rights for COVID-19-related situations. If your employer is denying you emergency paid leave or retaliating against you because of your sick leave request, they may be infringing on your rights.  At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wesing, PPLC., we work to help federal employees stand up for their rights. We have many years of experience assisting hundreds of federal employees with a huge range of federal employment problems. If you think your employer is violating your rights, contact us online or call (833) 833-3529 for a free initial consultation today. Don’t wait. Let us help you!

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