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Federal employment investigations: Do they pass a fairness test?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2021 | Employee Discrimination

If you are a worker with a few years of experience in the federal sphere, you’ve likely seen differentiated and even inconsistent treatment doled out to employees who are targeted in internal investigations.

Some workers sail through those probes without a hitch. They might meet informally a time or two with a manager or HR representative and then … case closed.

Others aren’t so lucky.

In fact, employee investigations in the federal work realm often turn out to be truly frightening and materially consequential for workers on the receiving end of management scrutiny.

Might you actually be one of those individuals?

Pretext often underlies a federal employment investigation

Legions of federal workers who are targeted in work-tied investigations flatly know that something is amiss under the surface. Employer actions might arguably stress one or more enumerated deficiencies that are ultimately proved bogus by objective evidence.

Perhaps an employee is being leaned in on because of alleged performance issues, when his or her work history has been routinely marked by exemplary ratings in the past.

Or maybe it’s the case that a select manager seems overly aggressive and officious only with workers of a certain race.

Complaints in a particular office or agency might also closely link in most instances to disciplinary probes targeting pregnant employees, older or disabled workers, politically active individuals or those with strong religious views.

The bottom line: Reams of empirical evidence culled from employee investigations in the federal work sphere readily reveal that many workers are singled out in unwarranted probes lacking any legitimate basis.

The stark downsides that can stem from an investigation

The repercussions of a wrongful employee probe are often adverse in the extreme for targeted individuals. That reality is underscored in one legal source noting the potential and actual perils for investigated federal employees. Those include outcomes like the following:

  • Promotion stalls/freezes
  • Exclusion from meetings and new opportunities
  • Demotion, sometimes including undesirable relocations and transfers
  • Pay cuts and subpar performance ratings
  • Attached stigma as a problematic employee
  • Suspension of duties and eventual job loss
  • Diminished federal employment opportunities in the future

The above-cited source duly notes that “there is no presumption of innocence” in an employment investigation. And given that, it adds, “The earlier you take action, the better the odds are of securing a positive final outcome.”

Timely and diligent legal representation from a proven employment law legal team can help secure that critically important goal.


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