Legal Insider: Federal employee administrative grievances

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.

Our law firm represents federal employees in the federal employee grievance process. Most, if not all federal agencies have their own federal employee grievance procedures for employees who wish to bring employment disputes forward for resolution.

Why Federal Employees Use the Grievance Process

Generally, federal employees utilize a federal agency’s grievance process when other legal options do not fit. For example, a federal employee may decided to file an administrative grievance if their employment dispute does not qualify for an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint, the appeals process at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or before other forums.

Types of Grievances

There are usually two types of federal employee grievances: (1) union grievances; and (2) administrative grievances. Typically, federal employees who are not eligible for the union grievance process use the administrative grievance process. Those federal employees represented by a labor union may be required to go through the union grievance process.

What do Administrative Grievances Cover?

Administrative grievances filed by federal employees involve employment disputes. For example, an administrative grievance can involve a challenge to a disciplinary action (example: Letter of Reprimand), a performance action, a re-assignment or other employment issue. There are numerous types of disputes eligible for the administrative grievance process for federal employees.

The Administrative Grievance Process

When considering filing an administrative grievance it is important to review the applicable administrative grievance process for your federal agency. Attached is a sample agency policy here. Each federal agency has its own administrative grievance procedures. Many administrative grievance policies require that a federal employee notify a supervisor verbally of the administrative grievance prior to filing a written grievance. Other policies require that a written grievance be submitted first.

Depending on the federal agency, an administrative grievance process typically includes 2-4 steps. Usually, at each step, the federal employee and a grievance official will attempt to resolve the grievance. Often the written grievance is submitted first and a secondary in-person meeting (when requested) is then held to discuss the administrative grievance. Usually, at the end of a grievance presentation the federal employee, often through counsel, will present a compromise resolution proposal. Following the administrative grievance presentation, the employee or counsel will receive a written decision on the grievance. If an initial administrative grievance is denied, then the federal employee will often have the ability to proceed to the next higher step of the process.

After the Grievance Process

If an administrative grievance is denied, some federal agencies provide additional rights for review and others do not. Some federal agencies offer federal employees a hearing process for administrative grievances and others do not. It is important to understand how the applicable administrative grievance procedure works for a particular federal agency prior to starting the process.


When a federal employee is considering filing an administrative grievance, it is important to have an attorney represent or advise you. Our law firm represents federal employees in the administrative grievance processes. If you are a federal employee in need of legal representation please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook and Twitter.