If you are in trouble at work as a federal employee, one of the primary concerns you might have involves your retirement benefits. If you are facing disciplinary action or termination of employment, what does that do to your retirement benefits?
For any federal employee facing discipline or termination of employment, this is a very serious question indeed. The loss of your retirement benefits could be catastrophic for your long-term financial plans.
Generally, your retirement benefits are safe
The good news is that, for most people, retirement benefits cannot be terminated for basic disciplinary proceedings or employment termination. Assuming your retirement interests are vested, they should be safe. Whether you are on a Federal Employee Retirement Savings (FERS) plan or a Civil Service Retirement Act (CSRA) plan, and your retirement plan is vested, you should be able to protect your benefits even through a disciplinary action or termination.
Unfortunately, one of the most common worries for federal employees is losing benefits because of employer retaliation. When an employee “blows the whistle” on a federal employer for breaking the law, that employee is protected. This means that the employer cannot fire the whistleblower or engage in any disciplinary action against the employee, including threatening the loss of retirement benefits.
If you have blown the whistle on your employer, that employer might fire you, but it can’t do so legally. You would probably have a strong retaliation claim in court. You should talk to a lawyer right away if your benefits are being threatened by your employer for blowing the whistle.
The primary exception: Specific criminal activity
The main exception to the safety of your retirement benefits involves criminal activity. If you are fired for more common reasons like poor performance or downsizing, your benefits should not be in jeopardy. However, according to 5 U.S.C. § 8312, federal employees convicted of certain specified federal crimes could lose their benefits.
These crimes include:
- Harboring or concealing persons
- Losing, gathering or transmitting defense information
- Transmitting defense information to a foreign government
- Subversive activities
There are numerous more types of crimes that could result in loss of your benefits.
If you are facing the possibility of losing your retirement benefits as a federal employee, it is important to make sure you fight back aggressively with the help of an experience lawyer who understands the legal challenges of representing federal employees.