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Legal Insider: Defending federal employees nationwide in discipline cases

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Approximately over 20,0000 federal employees are subject to formal discipline a year. Our nationwide federal employee lawyers represent federal employees in disciplinary cases. Each disciplinary action defense is different and requires careful planning.

Disciplinary Process for Federal Employees

There are various types of disciplinary actions for federal employees. They include letters of counseling, reprimands, suspensions, demotions and removals. For most serious disciplinary actions, referred to as adverse actions, a federal employee will first receive a notice of the proposed discipline and the opportunity to respond. A proposal will typically have an explanation of the conduct or issues leading to the proposed disciplinary action.

If a federal employee is issued a notice of proposed disciplinary action, they will have the opportunity to contest it before it becomes final. A federal employee can choose to provide a written response, an oral response or both. We often recommend providing both oral and written responses.

Request Disciplinary Materials

In most disciplinary cases, it is important for federal employees to request all of the materials that have been relied upon by the agency in proposing the discipline. We request these materials before responding on behalf of federal employees at the beginning of a case.

Draft a Written Response

It is important to prepare a full written response to the allegations in proposed disciplinary cases. These responses are typically 5 to 20 pages in length, depending on the underlying facts. Most written responses are typically due anywhere from 7 to 30 days after a proposal is given to a federal employee. We also attach exhibits to these responses, including supporting evidence, good performance records and character support letters.

Present an Oral Response

The oral response portion of a federal employee’s response can be very important. While written responses can be key to refuting specific allegations, there is something very important about personally meeting with the person that will make the decision. We think that in serious cases, oral responses can make a significant difference in outcomes. We represent federal employees during oral responses.

Appeals

If an unjust disciplinary decision is sustained by a federal agency, there are various options for federal employees to appeal further. If serious enough, an individual can appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Other potential appeals can include filing Equal Employment Opportunity complaints or whistleblower appeals, where applicable. There are also a number of other types of appeals that can be brought, but legal advice is important when making such decisions.

Conclusion

When a federal employee receives a proposed disciplinary action, it is important to have an attorney represent or advise them from the beginning. Our lawyers represent federal employees nationwide in all types of federal employee discipline. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.

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