We’ve all had bad supervisors in our careers.
Yet sometimes the behavior of a supervisor can cross the line into illegal behavior.
Abuse of authority is one of several personnel practices that are banned completely from the federal workplace by U.S. law.
Understanding how to distinguish between legal and illegal behavior isn’t necessarily easy, however.
Read on to learn more about the abuse of authority in the workplace, including its definition and several examples.
Abuse of Authority: Definition
Most people understand that it is illegal for a federal employee or supervisor to abuse their authority.
But what is “abuse of authority”? The definition of “abuse of authority” is an “arbitrary and capricious exercise of authority that is inconsistent with the mission of the executive agency concerned.”
That definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation. As you’ll see below, abuse of authority can take many different forms.
Abuse of Authority: Possible Real-Life Examples
To help give you a better understanding of what abuse of authority can look like, consider these hypothetical examples:
- Your supervisor makes fun of or humiliates you or a co-worker in front of your colleagues.
- A subordinate in the budget office uses their monetary authority to buy themselves office supplies or better computer equipment.
- Your boss passes you over for promotion and promotes your co-worker instead because they are good friends outside of work.
- Your colleague uses an official work vehicle to do a few personal errands and get lunch.
- A manager repeatedly yells and screams at a contractor for the agency.
No matter what form it takes, abuse of authority is a serious problem.
It can destroy the culture of an office or workspace, crush employee morale, increase turnover, and lead to fraud and corruption.
That means it needs to be reported and resolved immediately.
What Should I Do to Report Abuse of Authority?
If you suspect someone in the federal workplace of abuse of authority, you should consider reporting their behavior to a trusted supervisor, human resources specialist, or your agency’s Office of the Inspector General.
If you can’t think of anyone that you can trust in your agency, you can also file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC.)
It is only fair to be nervous about blowing the whistle on your boss or colleague.
But the good news is that the law protects you against retaliation once you file a complaint or report about an abuse of authority. You should also strongly consider getting legal counsel.
Don’t Fight the Battle Alone. Let Us Help You Defend Your Rights
While the law protects you against retaliation, it can be overwhelming to file a lawsuit against your federal agency.
This is especially true when you have to cope with stress, anxiety, and mental trauma.
For that and many other reasons, you should consult an attorney.
A qualified attorney will be able to assess your case, help you weigh your options, and maximize your chances of winning your case.
At the Federal Employment Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, our team of specialists is familiar with virtually every kind of federal workplace issue.
Mr. Wersing has represented countless federal employees, and he is dedicated to protecting his clients’ rights.
Together, we can help you get your life back on track and hold the abuser of authority accountable.