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On Halloween, don’t let an outlandish costume derail your career

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Dressing up in silly and sometimes-outrageous costumes is part of the fun of Halloween. But the federal employment law firm Tully Rinckey today reminds feds not to let things get too out of hand when suiting up for the office costume party. Feds who go for shock value with their costumes could end up jeopardizing their careers, said attorney John Mahoney:

In an effort to have the best costume, many people get pretty risque or even insensitive with their choice of garb. As explosive and instant as social media has gotten, these photos taken at such parties can be published online in a matter of seconds. Federal employees must be especially careful because they can be, and most often times are, charged with conduct unbecoming of a federal employee. The charge is very broad and supervisors love to use it because it’s easy to prove.

Which means if you act the fool at the party, your boss is likely to choose someone else for that next promotion — or could even get you fired if you step too far out of line.

It’s happened several times in recent years. An offensive costume almost killed former Immigration and Customs Enforcement head Julie Myers’ confirmation, even though she wasn’t wearing it. (At an ICE Halloween party in 2007, an employee dressed in a black-and-white striped prison jumpsuit, wore a dreadlocked wig and darkened his skin to look black. Myers was one of three judges who dubbed his costume “most original” and posed for a picture with him. Myers’ nomination was quickly put on hold when the photo leaked, but the Senate soon confirmed her.)

And just last week, photos surfaced from the 2010 Halloween party of a major “foreclosure mill” law firm that showed employees dressed up like homeless people or foreclosed homeowners. The law firm of Steven L. Baum denied that its employees dress up in a way that mocks people who have lost their homes, but the pictures sparked outrage toward the firm across the internet.

So if your costume is likely to be featured on one of those “We’re a culture, not a costume” posters, you may want to rethink it — or at least not wear it to the office.

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Controversial ICE chief Julie Myers to leave Nov. 15

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The trickle of Bush administration officials headed for the door is likely to become a flood now that the election’s over. Immigration and Customs Enforcement head Julie Myers today became the first major appointee to resign after Barack Obama’s victory. Her last day will be Nov. 15.

Myers’ nearly three-year tenure at ICE has been dogged by controversy, though she eventually won over some skeptics.

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Defense rules of research engagement

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It’s Halloween on Friday and as if on cue the Defense Department has released a new acquisition regulation about the use of humans in research contracts. Maybe it’s just me, but government and human testing sounds like the makings of a horror flick or thriller.

OK, so the rule is probably not that scary.

In fact, the rule is aimed at enhancing protections for human guinea pigs by ensuring contracts contain a clause mandating researchers to follow a stringent set of human research rules, such as obtaining informed consent from participants and receiving approval from a review board.

For the curious among you, Defense human research includes a variety of things from medical research into Gulf War illness to social science studies of terrorists.

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Happy Halloween from the Census Bureau

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Here’s a little something light for your Friday afternoon: The crack statisticians at the Census Bureau have pulled together some figures estimating what Halloween might bring next Friday night, such as:

•36 million potential trick-or-treaters. That’s how many kids between the ages of 5 and 13 are estimated to be in this country, but it doesn’t take into account immature adults — like this reporter — who might try to score some candy anyway. And those trick-or-treaters will visit…

•110 million occupied households in the United States.  All of which had better be stocked with something good, unless they like cleaning up eggs and toilet paper.

•Almost 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins for jack-o’-lanterns and pie. And where should you go to find the perfect pumpkin to carve? Illinois, which grew 542 million pounds of pumpkin in 2007.

•24.5 pounds of candy. That’s how much the average American eats each year, but many trick-or-treaters will easily top that.

•And North Carolina seems to be the ideal state to celebrate Halloween. The Census Bureau points out that the Tarheel State is the home of Transylvania County, a city called Pumpkin Center, and not one, but two Cape Fears.

Sadly, the Census Bureau doesn’t estimate how many hapless trick-or-treaters might get the Charlie Brown treatment: rocks.

 

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