Ask The Lawyer

By Debra Roth

Q & A Session – Notification of EEOC Complaint

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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:

When personnel receives a notice from EEOC notifying them an EEOC complaint has been lodged against a supervisor or employee, is it recommended to make the supervisor aware of the pending complaint? Or should we just wait until the investigative process leads to the supervisor?

A:

EEOC does not notify agencies about EEO complaints. That usually comes from the agency’s EEO office. Most agency EEO offices will tell a supervisor who is accused of discrimination about the complaint early on in the process.

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.

Q & A Session – Stealing Confidential Documents

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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:

What is the penalty if a federal employee steals several confidential federal documents and shares them with other employees who do not have a legitimate need to know?

A:

This sounds to me like it could be grounds for removal, and, depending on the reason the documents are confidential, criminal penalties could be imposed.

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.

Q & A Session – Hatch Act

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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:

Regarding the Hatch Act, I know that jokes in email, blogs, etc., are out of bounds. But can one employee show another an Onion parody of the Republican National Convention speaker lineup on a piece of paper? In the workplace as a sidebar?

On one hand, it is a newspaper. On the other, it was pretty funny.

A:

There’s an allowance for what are called “water cooler” discussions, and it sounds like what you are talking about may fit that exception. Still, it is best to keep politics out of the federal workplace. And, if you are a supervisor, do not show your Onion article to a subordinate. It will likely be misinterpreted.

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.

Q & A Session – Charged AWOL

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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 for a federal agency that has a two-hour rule. One day, I called in at noon to say I was not coming in to work for the day. My supervisor replied that he would put me down for annual and see me the next day. The next day, he called me in and said he changed his mind to put me on AWOL status. He said he got approval from three upper supervisors to do so. This is the first time I ever done this in 11.5 years. Is this legal?

A:

Yes. If you have a two-hour rule, and you do not follow it, you can be charged AWOL.

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.

Q & A Session – Discrimination in a 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:

What does a complainant need to prove in order to prevail in a case where he claims discrimination in a promotion?

A:

There is no concrete answer to this question. You must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the illegal discrimination was the reason for the action that is part of your case. How and whether to do this varies from case to case and often depends on credibility of witnesses and the outrageousness of the actions experienced by a complainant.

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.

Q & A Session – Leave of Absence Violation?

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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:

While on a leave of absence for a week, my return date changed. After informing my boss, I received an email that I found overstepping and threatening, basically questioning why my doctor would be okay with me returning to work one day, then putting me out for an additional few weeks the next. Is his response legal?

A:

I am not sure I understand your question. If you are out on sick leave, management has the right to seek medical evidence to show you are medically incapacitated for an absence of more than three days.

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.

Q & A Session – Unfair Hiring Practice?

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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 offered and accepted a permanent job promotion to a GS-12 position at my workforce. Prior to the start date of the new job, I called HR to ask where and who I was to report to.

HR then informed me that the job offer was postponed and that I would be notified of the new start date for the job and to contact my workplace administration office if I had any questions. I emailed my workplace administration personnel regarding the decision to postpone the job and was told that there were manning issues and I would be notified when a decision was made.

Although HR assured me that they would keep me informed and let me know about the decision, I did not receive any subsequent phone calls or emails but decided to be patient and wait for a response. No response was ever provided.

Much later, I found out that another person was hired for the job. The individual who was hired is of a different gender, race and age.

Is the situation described considered an unfair hiring practice and can I file a grievance with the Merit Systems Protection Board, EEO or any other program that prohibits unfair hiring practices based on what happened?

A:

You do not describe a case that is appealable to the Merit Systems Protection Board. You could file an EEO complaint, but just being a member of a different protected group is not enough. You have to prove the position was filled with a discriminatory motive.

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.

Q & A Session – Harassed by Inspector General

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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 believe I am being harassed by an Inspector General and I am not sure how to fight this. I am a Commissioner on a Federal Commission. My non-profit is not in the position to take on the federal government and I have been reminded by many that this IG’s actions could be a career buster for me. What should I do?

A:

In your position, you have an obligation to cooperate with an Inspector General. There is no way to fight it, but being prepared and truthful in responses are good starting places.

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.

Q & A Session – Advertising Temporary Positions

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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:

Does an agency have to advertise a temporary position within a division or can they simply select an employee of their choosing?

A:

A temporary position can be filled with an employee of management’s choosing. If the position is a temporary promotion, it must be completed after 120 days.

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.

Q & A Session – Management-Directed Reassignments

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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:

Can a management-directed reassignment be initiated for a contract specialist to a contracting officer position? A contracting officer is required to be warranted, which allows them to obligate the government contractually. In addition, the contracting officer can be held criminally responsible for their actions in performance of their duties by virtue of their contractual authority. Also, the position would take them from a non-supervisory position to a supervisory position.

A:

The management-directed reassignment can occur assuming all the other requirements can be met.

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.