Ask The Lawyer

By Debra Roth

Q & A Session – Stolen Items During Business Trip

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I have a colleague, who is a federal employee, that was on a business trip and had personal items stolen out of the car including a laptop, cell phone, ipod and other items. Our agency’s general counsel said she would be reimbursed for her items. It she entitled to any compensation for the loss of priceless family photos, purchased music or software?

A:

No. The government has limited its liability and will not pay for intangible damages. Your colleague may be able to receive some additional compensation from her personal insurance.

 

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

 

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Q & A Session – Desk Audit for Higher Grade Level

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I work in HR and believe that my position could be a higher grade. The job requires me to do more and different types of work than what is usually required of the same position across the government. Would asking my supervisor for a desk audit help the chance of my GS level changing?

A:

The desk audit is not based on your abilities. It is based on the complexities and expectations of the job. Desk audits can help raise a grade level, but, as a rule, they tend to scrutinize the duties of a position and often do not result in a higher grade level. The possibility also exists that a desk audit could result in a lower grade level.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Disruptive Noise in the Workplace

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I have colleagues that perform personal activities on government time and are sometimes so loud it disrupts my ability to concentrate. It has prevented me from being able to get my work done. Are there laws, policies or guidelines that govern noise producing activities which impede my ability to complete my work?

A:

The situation you describe should not be allowed to continue. If your supervisor won’t deal with it, you can file a grievance to elevate it. The American taxpayer deserves better than to have such wasteful and disruptive practices occurring in federal workplaces.

 

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

 

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – MSPB Representation

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

Who can represent a person at the MSPB?

A:

A paralegal, a non-lawyer union steward or your colleague down the hall can be your representation at the MSPB, so long as your representative does not hold him or herself out to be a lawyer. If you prevail with a non-lawyer representative, you are not entitled to attorneys’ fees.

 

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

 

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

 

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Q & A Session – Rescinded Offer for Government Contractor

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I am a government contractor and was offered a position and attended orientation. However, I was told later that there was an issue regarding the adjudication of my security clearance and the offer was rescinded. Previously I have been granted security clearances and could not find any issues in my security records. I have not been provided with any information why I was let go. What options do I have?

A:

It sounds to me like you have a lot of speculation, but no proof about why you were let go. Government contractors are usually are usually at will employers and can remove their employees for any reason, except an illegal one, such as discrimination. Even though you were told there was a security clearance issue, you were never formally advised and it looks like from your review it is not true. You should still be able to get a job elsewhere that requires a clearance.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Duties Not In Job Description

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I am doing duties that are not under my job description and have coworkers completing duties that are under my job description. I also regularly work overtime, but my coworkers doing similar duties do not have enough to do. I am not getting compensated for my overtime. I have been told about an 80/20 rule that says I am supposed to do at least 80 percent of my job description and someone else can do the rest. Is all of this legal and what can I do about it?

A:

There is no 80/20 rule. Every position description has a provision requiring an employee to perform other duties as assigned. If your position description is inaccurate, you should request that your supervisor amend it and then you should request a desk audit to see if the job should be upgraded. If you are required to work overtime you are entitled to payment. If you are not-exempt from the FLSA (any of your SF-50s will tell you if you are exempt or non-exempt from FLSA), you are entitled to time and a half if you are required or allowed to work overtime. File a claim, but make sure you have records.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Performance Objectives and Termination

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I reported to my command and received a closeout assessment. The appraisal was completed appropriately. I reported to my new command and I wasn’t provided new performance objectives for 90 days. When my final appraisal was completed, it was done under an appraisal that was set for less than 90 days. After a formal grievance process, the command determined that the period satisfied the time period requirement. Can an appraisal be backdated to be considered for the final appraisal since objectives were not set for 90 days? Do I have grounds to file an MSPB appeal?

A:

The MSPB does not have jurisdiction for the concern you raise. If your command tried to fire you for poor performance based on the fact that you were on standards for less than 90 days, then the MSPB might have jurisdiction and look favorably on your claim. But those are not the facts you allege. You may be able to file a grievance on this issue. If you are in a bargaining unit, check with your union. If you’re not in a bargaining unit, find the procedures for an administrative grievance, but your complaint will probably be heard only in your command.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Conduct-Related Termination

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I was notified I was being terminated for conduct-related reasons. I was hired under FCIP and have no formal write-ups or negative reviews. I feel like they are just doing this with the end of FCIP. Can they do this?

A:

If it is conduct related, you are being terminated for that reason. The end of FCIP does not affect current appointees.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Denial of Career Ladder Promotion

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I have been working for the government for over 15 years and was looking to be promoted this year. I was told I qualify for a GS-11 position and have had all good performance ratings, with no documentation of any issues. However, I was told I would not get a promotion, since I did not work on a project. Can this be a reason to deny my promotion?

A:

Career ladder promotions have the reputation and expectation by many employees that they are automatic. The actual truth is that a career ladder promotion occurs when the employee demonstrates the ability to perform at the next higher level. If denial of a career ladder promotion is for an illegal reason, such as discrimination or whistleblower reprisal, there are processes that can be used to challenge the denial, but the unpromoted employee has the burden of proving the illegal motivation.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Termination Based on Insubordination

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

After working in the federal government as a contractor for nine years in an at-will state, I was terminated. My manager had made comments that I felt were distasteful, embarrassing, belittling, derogatory and threatening. I had not had problems with managers in the past. My manager began to take tasks away from me, removed my restricted computer access and became very angry when I asked for a task assignment in writing. I emailed HR and was told this would be in my file. I was then terminated for insubordination. Were my actions insubordination? Do I have any recourse?

A:

The facts you describe, occurring almost 1 ½ years ago, are beyond any time limit for recourse. It may be that there was little to be done anyway since you were an at will employee, but sometimes hostile remarks like those directed at you can be used to prove discrimination. But, the time limit for EEO has to be observed and you are too late.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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