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Veteran preference laws create complexity

Military service veterans are entitled to special preferences for employment in light of their service. Military service, even in time of peace, is often a risky job and as a nation, one of the rewards we provide those who have served is with preferences in federal employment.

Two laws, the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 (VEOA), and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), are designed to protect the employment preferences and rights of veterans.

The VEOA works specifically to protect the rights of veterans who apply for federal employment. The USERRA, is broader, in that it protects the rights of veterans who leave their existing jobs in the civilian sector or federal government, and then return after a period of active duty military service.

SSA settles $9.9 million discrimination lawsuit

While the federal government is responsible for the enforcement of all of the federal employment laws and regulations in the U.S., it is also a very large bureaucracy. There are tens of thousands of employees and managers working in diverse jobs, including medical researchers, weather forecasters, park rangers, FBI agents and federal judges.

And this can lead to sometimes ironic juxtapositions. A case has recently settled involving the Social Security Administration and disabled workers. The irony here is the SSA is responsible for processing and administering claims for disability insurance benefits, and keeping workers who suffer some form of disability working with is generally advantageous for the system.

A long walk

Whistleblowers are sometimes seen opportunists, with the implication that they are looking for a short-term gain or profit by their actions. As if by whistleblowing, they were taking a short-cut to wealth and profits.

In reality, whistleblowing can leave them on a very long walk to obtaining relief. A case involving an Air Marshal who was fired by the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in retaliation after he informed the media and Congress that the agency was planning on eliminating air marshals on flights that would require an overnight stay by the air marshal.

Reasonable accommodation requires good faith negotiation

Disability can mean a great many things. When most people refer to someone as "disabled," they often are using it in a vague fashion, meaning the individual may be unable to perform some particular task.

While an individual who has lost their ability to walk or stand may not be capable of working as Border Patrol agent for the Department of Homeland Security, if they had training as an accountant or lawyer, they could easily be employed by the Internal Revenue Service, in a more sedentary position.

Are you being watched?

Your federal career is important to you and your family. You depend on the income and the job satisfaction, knowing that what you do provides an important governmental service. Obtain a job with the federal government can be time consuming and demanding, and when some event occurs that threatens that position, you need to respond appropriately.

And the best way to respond is to contact an attorney who is experienced handling federal employment law matters. Whether your issue involves questions that could eventually be in front of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), having an attorney to assist with your matter is essential.

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.

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