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Finding Help Through a Federal Employee Investigation

A federal employee may be subject to investigations to do with their conduct at work, and may be issued performance improvement plans or disciplinary action. It’s important to understand that a federal employment lawyer can be a valuable ally through these processes.

As a federal employee, you may come upon a situation at some point in which your boss charges you with misconduct. Should this happen, an investigation may be launched to determine culpability, before disciplinary action is issued. It is important to be aware of your rights through these investigations.

Why are investigations started?

A federal employee investigation is usually launched when an employee is suspected of information falsification, harassment of colleagues, of being absent without permission, of allowing security violations, of misusing government funds, or of negligence, among other things.

In each one of these circumstances, it makes sense to find a lawyer experienced in federal employment law to educate you on your rights through the process.

You have a right to receive warnings

As an investigation proceeds, you, as a federal employee, have the right to receive written or oral warnings describing the nature of the investigation.

A Kalkines Warning may be in order if you are under investigation for an administrative violation (rather than a criminal violation). Employees under investigation are protected from having their truthful answers used against them in a prosecution. Intentional falsification, however, can result in criminal prosecution.

A Garrity Warning is usually issued in investigations in cases of suspected criminal behavior. Your responses to questions asked of you in such investigations may be used against you.

If you belong to a federal employee union, and are subject to an administrative investigation, you are able to ask for a union representative to take up your case. In criminal investigations, however, you may be allowed to seek outside representation by a federal employment attorney.

Facing disciplinary action

When you are investigated, you may either be cleared of all charges of misconduct in the end, or you may be found in violation, and receive disciplinary action. Whatever action may be recommended, you will likely receive written information describing it. Once you receive such information, you have the right to review what evidence the investigating agency relied on to arrive at its conclusion, and challenge it. You can use a federal employee attorney to represent you through this stage — to help you argue against the findings made, to mitigate the disciplinary action proposed, to ask for more time, and so on. Legal advice through this stage can be crucial.

The Performance Improvement Plan

At the beginning of each work period, your supervisor at the government agency that you work for gives you a written set of performance standards that you are required to measure up to. If your performance is found to fall short, you may receive a Performance Improvement Plan, or PIP, with suggestions to help you get better. You are required to comply with the recommendations made. Failure to do so can result in demotion or being fired.

Unfortunately, PIPs often end up unfavorably for federal employees. It is therefore a good idea for employees receiving PIPs to enlist the help of an experienced federal employment lawyer. The lawyer can help you respond effectively to all allegations of substandard performance, challenge the points made out in the PIP, and ensure fairness all through the process.

It may seem as if investigations and disciplinary actions are internal official matters between you and your federal employer alone, but a skilled lawyer can contribute a great deal to ensuring a fair process.