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Indefinite suspension after indictment upheld by Federal Circuit

A Veterans Affairs employee recently appealed his indefinite suspension beyond the Merit Systems Protection Board to the federal courts. Unfortunately for this employee, his appeal was unsuccessful, but federal employees should know that there appeals both within and beyond the MSPB.

The employee's theory before the court in this case was interesting. The man, a GS-13 program analyst who works for the VA's Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, was suspended indefinitely due to a grand jury indictment. He was indicted on 50 counts of making false statements.

OPM viewpoint survey: Leadership shapes best agencies for workers

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte has released its 2017 annual ranking of the "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government." The rankings are based largely on the findings of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey performed by the Office of Personnel Management.

"Since the first rankings were released in 2003, they have provided a mechanism to hold agency leaders accountable for the health of their organizations; serve as an early warning sign for agencies in trouble; and offer a roadmap for improvement," reads the report.

Retaliation for speaking out

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As a federal employee, you should feel confident raising concerns in your workplace. If you have a complaint or employment-related concern, there should be nothing stopping you from bringing it forward to your supervisor, manager or personnel department.

Unfortunately, many federal employees have run into issues after reporting discrimination, sexual harassment or another employment-related issue.

Were you arrested for DWI over the holidays? Take action now

If you're a federal employee or are applying for a federal job, a drunk driving arrest can be a big deal. First, it can cause you to miss work, which could lead to performance concerns. If your job requires you to have a valid driver's license, you may face real challenges. Also, an employer's concerns about your alcohol consumption can create problems with your security clearance.

The timeline for defending yourself and your driving privileges from a DWI charge is short. Depending on the state where you were arrested, you may have just a few days to challenge your license suspension or revocation.

Chief Justice to review judiciary's sexual harassment policies

Last month, 15 women accused veteran 9th Circuit jurist Alex Kozinski of engaging in a pattern of sexual harassment and misconduct. Kozinski, 67, served for 32 years on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. After a partial apology, he announced his retirement.

Kozinski's retirement comes amidst the firestorm of public sexual misconduct allegations that have resulted in ousters and resignations among media figures, public officials and others. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts noted the trend recently in his annual report on the federal judiciary.

MSPB lacks a quorum to go forward on sexual harassment study

Sexual harassment remains a serious problem in the workplace in Texas and among federal workers. Recent scandals of high-profile members of Congress do not touch the depth of the problem, however, and the executive branch could be facing more scrutiny in the future than it has in the past. There is a government-wide study on the subject of sexual harassment but that has been held up.

The study cannot be completed and published because the President has not yet nominated someone to round out the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), a three-person board that lacks a quorum due to having only one sitting member. This also holds up the Board from issuing studies on other topics, including whistleblower reprisal policy. The MSPB is mandated to root out prohibited practices such as harassment and reprisals.

Don't be a victim of floating performance standards

Lately our firm has been hearing from some federal employees concerning unfair treatment during performance reviews. This is the pattern that is emerging from our discussions:

It appears that performance standards are being manipulated in order to dismiss or demote federal employees who are disliked by senior executives.

Why was the director for intelligence whistleblowers put on leave?

Are intelligence officials trying to hamper the Intelligence Community Whistleblowing and Source Protection program? Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is asking.

In a letter to National Intelligence Director Dan Coates, Grassley referred to allegations that the decision to put the director of the program on leave in late November was retaliatory.

Pay and benefits reminders should a government shutdown occur

On Friday, President Trump signed a two-week spending bill to avert a shutdown through Dec. 22. If necessary, additional time-limited measures could keep the government running until a permanent budget deal can be reached.

Of course, there's a chance we'll see another government shutdown, and agencies are already in planning for the eventuality. What do you need to keep in mind?

New special counsel to shorten whistleblower claim resolution

The newly appointed head of the Office of Special Counsel values whistleblowers and has a lot of respect for what they do and the courage it takes to do it. He's excited about a new law called the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which increases protections for federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse by government agencies. For one thing, the new law allows him to hold people responsible when they retaliate against whistleblowers.

Henry Kerner is a former prosecutor who worked on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Investigations before being appointed to head the OSC by President Trump.

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