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Where do I pursue an appeal of a negative job action?

If you are a civil servant working for the federal government or employee of a company doing government contract work, you enjoy a high level of due process protection against arbitrary punitive action. However, there can be a potential downside in the safety net. The matrix of laws that cover various issues can create so many avenues of possible action that it can boggle the mind.

The area of whistleblower protection is one example. On one hand, the federal Whistleblower Protection Act encourages employees to report when they believe something is wrong in terms of program management or spending. On the other hand, retaliation from higher ups can follow. There are myriad forms that retaliation can take and myriad laws to leverage in response. The retaliation suffered influences whether and how to mount a challenge.

Mapping the right route

If you are covered by a union agreement and suffer demotion, suspension or are fired based on questionable claims of conduct and performance issues, you likely will have to first exhaust the grievance processes spelled out in the contract. Even if you are not covered by a union, you still retain rights that include:

  • Due process in how you are investigated
  • Advance notice of any potential action being considered

After action is taken, you may have a right to a hearing before the Merit Systems Protection Board or the right to another form of appeal.

Adverse actions colored by discrimination might require going to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you suffer discrimination or reverse discrimination in pay, or based on your gender, race religion or because of a disability, the EEOC is where to turn.

Unfair labor practices and recovery of benefits for job injuries may require presenting claims to yet other jurisdictional bodies.

Each type of dispute has a number of possible forums. The skill of knowing which is most advantageous in any given case is something developed from solid legal experience.

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