Early on in the pandemic, many workplaces chose to move to a work-from-home model. Employees who had been accustomed to working in an office exclusively had to adapt to a full-time tele-work model.
No longer going into the office, those employees now had their work computers in their possession in their homes.
Like a lot of employees, these individuals occasionally use their work computers for personal purposes. In fact, over half of employee report using their work computers for things like online shopping, email or social media use, instant messaging, reading articles or news, etc. This may be done during or outside of working hours.
With so many federal employees now working from home and now using their work computers for occasional personal use, many are surprised when they are disciplined for such use.
This is especially concerning when some employees are disciplined and others are not.
Disciplining employees: A convenient excuse?
In most cases, there are no clear agency policies governing the scope of personal use of a government computer. Employers may have failed to inform employees of such policies. And in some cases, no such policies exist.
Unfortunately, many management officials are using this as a tool to discipline certain employees: Older employees, employees of a certain race, etc.
Unequal enforcement of policies targeting employees of a certain demographic may be considered discrimination.
And discrimination in the federal workplace is illegal.
What federal employees need to know
If you are a federal employee who has been fired or otherwise disciplined for using your work computer for personal use, talk to a federal employment law attorney as soon as possible.
Federal employment law is a highly specialized area of employment law, so it is imperative that you work with a firm that has specific experience representing federal-sector employees.