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Federal Employment and Labor Law Blog

What happens with worker disputes if government shuts down?

It's that time of year again. The prospect of another government shutdown looms as soon as this weekend unless Congress can agree to temporarily extend current spending authority.

The chances of that happening are said by some observers to be somewhat less likely now that the president has signaled that he is willing to drop his demand that the measure include funds for the Mexico border wall he has promised. However, negotiations continue on Capitol Hill. Without resolution, hundreds of thousands of federal workers face temporary layoffs.

What are possible steps to appeal an OWCP final determination?

Claim denied. A worker does not want to see those words after being hurt on the job. Workers' compensation programs in all states are supposed to be there on a no-fault basis – founded on the principle that injuries happen. When they do, a worker should be given the care necessary to achieve the fullest possible recovery.

State programs don't cover the federal government. Federal workers have separate processes to follow to file claims and receive compensation from the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. The one thing that is common to all such programs, however, is denials of legitimate claims. The frustration of having that happen can then be compounded if you choose to exercise your right to appeal.

Federal labor law like dancing on ice floes

A lot can change in a short period of time. As we noted in a post in October, it appeared that employees for federal contractors were headed for some improvements in benefits under orders and rules issued by the Labor Department under President Obama.

By virtue of those actions, companies across the country enjoying the benefits of a federal government contract were on notice that they would be more accountable for complying with labor laws. Failing to pay overtime or provide paid sick leave meant contractors wouldn't see contracts renewed. However, late last month, Congress repealed the orders and President Trump signed the measure into law.

State Department career in the balance after worker charged

The federal government puts a lot of stock in the notion of candor. Failing to be forthcoming when asked questions during an investigation could lead to disciplinary action. As we noted in a post two years back, a charge of "lack of candor" proved to be a career ender for an administrative officer at the Federal Aviation Administration.

The circumstances of that case, in which a worker's substance abuse was a factor, perhaps warranted some leniency. However, that is not how that Merit Systems Protection Board appeal played out.

What's best first step making a whistleblower reprisal claim?

Any parent ever called upon in a squeeze to officiate at a child's soccer or baseball game knows that it can be a thankless task. The first time you blow that whistle over an infraction, you run the risk of incurring the wrath of another parent who didn't have the guts to step up at the first call for volunteers.

Whistleblowing becomes all that much more difficult when the stakes involve exposing suspected misspending of federal funds or misconduct of higher ups. As we noted in a post earlier this month, the fallout for workers in Texas or any other state can run the gamut from reassignment to an undesirable posting or even being fired.

Protective email practices for federal workers

You are reading this so it might be a little hard to imagine the sound, but what do you think of when you read, "Doink. Doink!" Hopefully what comes to mind is the sound effect that plays at the opening of every episode of TVs "Law and Order." And, by association, perhaps what that leads you to recall are the words of the Miranda warning: "Whatever you say may be used against you."

These are good words to remember if you are ever arrested, but they are also helpful to federal workers every time they sit down to compose an email, whether it's an initial communication or a reply to someone else's. That's because email use in the federal workplace environment is highly regulated and suspicions of misuse could increase the risk of career-ending disciplinary action.

Whistleblower retaliation: What whistleblowers need to know

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Federal employees have a right to expose (or "blow the whistle" on) their employers if they are aware harassment, discrimination or other illegal actions by the company or employer.

Employees should not hesitate to come forward with this type of information. Federal employees are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act. 

Fear spurs federal worker use of encrypted communication

Making and enforcing policy in any organization is a tough job. Federal workers tasked with such work face the additional hurdle of having to try to accomplish it under the shadow of competing political ideologies and oversight.

Laws are in place protecting workers' rights to due process. And, in the current political environment, some may argue that they need to organize not just for their own sakes but for the good of the country as well. This clearly has many wondering what options exist for them to continue communicating without violating government rules on openness and transparency.

Protections for transgender people may be in jeopardy

Transgender workers in the District of Columbia are protected from employment discrimination, but workers in other states and cities, such as Texas and Atlanta, may be vulnerable. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission still considers discrimination against transgender people to be illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that forbids sex-based discrimination. However, its position might shift.

Establishing rights for transgender people has been a long and complex legal process. In January 2015, the Department of Education said that schools had to treat students as they wished based on their gender identity. This was reinforced by the DOE and the Department of Justice in 2016 when the departments said that schools must allow students to use facilities based on their gender identity or they would not receive Title IX funding.

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