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Federal Employment and Labor Law Blog

Discrimination claim payments increase for federal agencies

Federal agencies have paid more money in discrimination case settlements in 2012 than any previous year, and exceeded the total from 2005, which had been the previous top year for payouts.

According to one analysis, it appears the number of larger lump sum settlements have increased. The agencies may be using the strategy to quickly end some discrimination cases to avoid expensive and lengthy Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proceedings.

No Colonel left behind

No matter how well intentioned, legislation that favors any particular group can cause bad feeling, resentment and litigation. Affirmative action has been a controversial topic since it was first introduced to address gender and racial equality, and veteran's preferences are potentially likely to cause similar controversy.

The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) recently released a report regarding veteran's preferences in hiring practices for civilian employees of the Department of Defense. Based on their findings, the MSPB recommends the use of an oversight process to ensure that veterans who are hired, obtain their jobs on merit and not by favoritism or other inappropriate means.

Exhausting administrative remedies

If you are a federal employee and have suffered any type of adverse job action, from disciplinary proceedings to reassignments, reductions in grade or termination, you do have options to protect your job and your career.

However, your future is controlled by the operation of the federal Civil Service laws, and it is vitally important that you follow all of the necessary steps in that process. It will not come as a shock that these steps can be bureaucratic and they may seem exhausting, but if you fail to exhaust your administrative remedies, your case could wind up being dismissed from court.

Seven-year struggle of Marine whistleblower resolved

What is always amazing about whistleblower stories is that people doing the right thing often gets them punished or terminated. A story from last week relates the experience of an ex-Marine, who at the time was a civilian science advisor in Iraq. He recognized the threat posed to Marines by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which in 2006, where causing two-thirds of American casualties.

Humvees were insufficiently armored to protect their occupants during an encounter with an IED, so he began to argue for more Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) trucks. His superiors "brushed aside his concerns." 

EEOC finds frequent grounds for discrimination dismissals

If you work for a federal agency and have suffered some type of employment discrimination, from sexual harassment to a hostile working environment or unlawful retaliation, you may decide to sue your agency. On the other hand, your agency may be investigating you, and it is that investigation that is driving the hostile environment or retaliation.

You may have a significant, professional position, with years of experience within the federal bureaucracy and based on an advanced degree. You may wonder if you really need an attorney to file your discrimination claim.

Congress may strengthen whistleblower protection

When a federal employee sees something wrong within their department or agency, the public would likely encourage their reporting the problem. The federal government is huge operation and with any large, multi-faceted bureaucracy, there are problems. And that is why the need arises for employees to speak out and, if necessary, become a whistleblower.

For any federal employee, the decision to become a whistleblower is difficult. When they witness wronging or inappropriate behavior, they may feel compelled to report the problem to their supervisors or managers, but what if their managers are responsible for the problem?

MSPB finds furloughs not inefficient enough

Last year's sequestration and the furloughs that followed for many federal government employees caused a massive increase in the number of appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). That agency, which typically handles a few thousand appeals in a year saw its caseload skyrocket to more than 30,000, the majority of which were from the Department of Defense.

Many of these furlough appeals have argued that the furlough caused inefficiencies, which seemingly would make it difficult for the agency to claim that the furlough promotes the "efficiency of the service." The MSPB, however, disagreed in a recent decision, where they noted that such inefficiencies were the natural result of any furlough.

With less due process, how do we know what we know?

It is always problematic when extreme cases are used as "examples" of a system. The Veterans Affairs healthcare system has many problems, as recent events have shown. Management at various levels has been accused of manipulating the scheduling system for veterans' doctor appointments, to create a more favorable appearance of the scheduling process.

Some of these problems may have been caused by unrealistic goals that came from higher levels. They may have provided insufficient resources to fund the necessary number doctors to enable the timely scheduling of appointments. However, sorting out the cases is a time consuming business, and rushing to fire employees because someone "knows something" is problematic and too often reckless and illegal. 

MSPB stays USDA whistleblower's termination

Whistleblowing is always a risky activity for any federal worker. Most employees of the federal government value their jobs, and many are motivated by a strong sense of public service, recognizing that what they do matters, protecting the safety of the public in dozens of roles.

The integrity of the food supply is important, as large, industrialized food processors and a nationwide transport system mean disease-carrying or contaminated food can arrive on consumer's dinner tables in a short time.

Constant surveillance of this system is necessary, and part of the process is the employment of federal food inspectors in processing plants. A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector at hog slaughterhouse in Kansas noted that the plant violated various provisions of the Humane Method of Slaughter Act.

MSBP board members role eliminated in new VA law

Legal actions often proceed slowly. This is generally not due to judges having a poor work ethic. Courts and other legal proceedings are often slow for exactly the opposite reason; because the judges and their staff are so busy. Court dockets are often booked months in advance, meaning when new cases arise, they are sent to the back of the line, and that line may be rather long.

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which oversees the federal civil service's disciplinary system, has been rather busy of late. Last year's sequestration and the unpaid furloughs that many federal workers endured, generated 30,000 appeals to the MSPB, which almost four times the agencies typical years' workload.

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