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Don't turn a win into a loss

During litigation on any matter, you may win the case, and have the judge approve your argument or you may settle a case with your opponents. The terms of the court order or the settlement are important. They may create obligations on both parties to the litigation and may require you to take specific steps or actions.

If you fail to adhere to those obligations can lead to your agreement becoming set aside and made no longer enforceable. Such was the case with a woman who worked for the U.S. Army. She was subjected to a removal action and appealed her removal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

"I did what was right"

Federal employees are often given portrayed in a bad light. They are unmotivated, simply marking time until they retire. Many of the federal programs they are responsible for draw complaints regarding their expense, the amount of red-tape they generate and their lack of effectiveness.

But often these characterizations are cherry-picked and anecdotal. On the whole, much of the work of the maligned federal bureaucracy is absolutely essential. From the FAA managing the nation's air traffic control system, to the collection of taxes by the IRS, the Department of Agriculture's inspection of the food supply and the federal courts adjudication of thousands of lawsuits, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking down disease outbreaks, residents of the U.S. would see radical, and not necessarily improved, living conditions if the federal bureaucracy stopped doing its job. 

Beware the stick man

In argumentation, one famous form is known as the "stick man." This is an argument where an often simple scenario is laid out and then easily knocked down by the proponent of the opposing view. Hence, the name stick man, because the argument topples over as easy as a stick man would.

Attacks on federal civil service job protections often take this form. One or two anecdotal experiences are conflated into the entire federal civil service. A story frames the discussion of the difficulty of firing federal workers as one of "red tape."

MSPB chief reviews challenging year for agency

Last year was difficult year for the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The Board, which is responsible for hearing appeals from administrative law judge decisions related to federal employee disciplinary, adverse actions and other employment law cases.

The MSPB began the year swamped with 30,000 furlough cases caused by the sequestration in 2013. And it had to deal with new, rapid appeals process for senior executive service (SES), which has already demonstrated the shortcomings of the new process.

Problems at the VA continue, pt.2

Disciplining management is always problematic. Senior managers may manipulate structures they oversee to insulate themselves from direct allegation of misconduct or wrongdoing. The VA has been perceived to be particularly poor in punishing misconduct among its senior management, which is in part why Congress enacted the draconian new dismissal procedure in the wake of the Phoenix VA hospital scheduling scandal.

This new law could allow very rapid terminations of senior managers, and shortens their appeal rights, but given the newness of the law, it is possible it may be challenged at some point as a violation of their due process rights.

Problems at the VA continue, pt.1

Retaliation claims and allegations of misconduct by supervisors and managers are always a difficult situation for any employees. Their managers should be above reproach, since they are not paid to perform the essential function of the department or agency, but to see that those functions are effectively executed.

When managers fail to properly execute their duties, as they apparently did at the Phoenix VA hospital, bad things can happen for the veterans needing healthcare services from the facility. 

Some former troubled IRS employees rehired

Hiring employees is a complex task. A manager must review the candidate's qualifications and the skills needed for the position. They then must look at whether they are a veteran or have other factors that could give them a preference. And the manager must possess good judgment.

A recent report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the Internal Revenue Service hired some individuals who had been previously employed by the IRS and had performance or conduct issues. 

There is no confusion -- lack of candor is a serious charge

Watergate has been the most famous political scandal of the last 50 years, and the only one that resulted in the resignation of the president. The teaching lesion of Watergate has been that it was the lying and the cover-up that ended the Nixon presidency.

And that should serve as an exemplar, warning all federal employees that because they owe a duty of candor to their agency, when they make mistakes or violate a standard, the lying about the incident can be more serious than the underlying offense.

Whistleblower gets to return to the MSPB

Legal disputes are often a game of inches. People often misunderstand how court opinions read, and fail to grasp that when a court upholds or overturns a lower court ruling, it may not be ruling on the substantive issue that caused the lawsuit in the first place, but instead, may only be ruling on one procedural element of the overall case.

Such was the recent victory in the U.S. Supreme Court for a former air marshal who was fired by the department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Court did not order that he be reinstated to his position as air marshal, which is his goal. But what it did is an important and essential step in his reaching that reinstatement.

Title VII allows federal employees more time to sue in court

One of the most important elements of a lawsuit that you should be aware of, is the application of a statute of limitations to your claim. Statutes of limitations are, as the name suggests, the limitations applied to causes of action, i.e., the right to sue on some grievance. They vary in length, and once they "run," or have expired, they work as an absolute ban on filing a lawsuit.

For federal workers there are additional rules that they must comply with when suing the federal government for a Title VII discrimination claim. A worker is required to file an administrative action first with their agency or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before they attempt to sue in a federal court.

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