Except in the most extreme cases, your federal employer cannot immediately take certain types of disciplinary or adverse action against you. They can issue a Letter of Reprimand, which functions as a formal warning and remains on your personnel file for a set period of time, without any notice. If your employer is attempting to suspend you (for 15 days or more), demote you, or terminate you, however, they must give you at least 30 days of advanced written notice. Federal employers can sometimes circumvent this requirement if they have reason to believe you committed a crime that could result in imprisonment.
Any notice of proposed discipline must include the following information:
- Details of the proposed action. The notice should clarify whether your employer is trying to suspend, demote, or remove you from your position. Again, your employer does not have to give you notice if they are only trying to issue a Letter of Reprimand or suspend you for a period of 14 days or less.
- An explanation of the charges. The notice should clearly articulate why the discipline is being proposed. Specifically, it must clarify what alleged instance(s) of misconduct or poor performance justify the proposed action. You must have enough information to be able to defend yourself, and you are allowed to request all relevant evidence.
- An explanation of your rights. As a federal employee, you have the right to respond to the charges orally, in writing, or both. You must be given a reasonable amount of time to prepare and deliver your response. In most situations, seven days is considered a reasonable amount of time. The Notice should also reinforce you have the right to legal representation. You must hire your own legal advocate, as your employer is not required to provide one to you.
You must act quickly when you receive a notice of proposed discipline. Do not wait to get in touch with our Washington, D.C. federal employee disciplinary action attorneys, who can help you understand the charges and get to work on a defense strategy. Remember, you only have 30 days before your employer can take further action. You should also contact our firm if your federal employee suspends, demotes, or terminates you without providing sufficient advance notice.
How Do Federal Employers Decide on Disciplinary or Adverse Actions?
Initial adjudication proceedings for a proposed disciplinary action will not resemble a trial. A third-party official will review the notice of proposed discipline, the evidence your employer used to justify that notice, and your written or oral response(s). They will not review new evidence or conduct an additional investigation.
In situations where a proposed discipline involves allegations of misconduct, your employer only has to offer preponderant evidence. This means the deciding official must believe you “more likely than not” committed the described offense. This standard is much lower than that of a criminal trial, in which someone is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the proposed discipline is the result of allegations of poor performance, your employer must provide “substantial” evidence you failed to adequately perform your job responsibilities. Substantial evidence is an even lower standard than preponderant evidence.
Your employer cannot move to demote or remove you for performance-related reasons without giving you an opportunity to improve. Before proposing an adverse action, your employer must institute a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), which will identify where you are not living up to expectations, identify the level of performance you must achieve, and give you a reasonable amount of time to achieve that level of performance. Your employer must work with you in good faith throughout this process. If an employer does not execute a PIP, a performance-related adverse action cannot be taken against you.
Received a Notice of Proposed Disciplinary Action? Call Now.
You do not have to go through this stressful process alone. Our Washington, D.C. federal employee disciplinary action lawyers will help you prepare a strategic response to whatever charges you are facing. Our team at Pitre & Associates, LLC understands how these cases are decided and have what it takes to secure favorable outcomes. Should we receive an unfavorable decision, we can also assist you with an appeal before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
Contact us online or call (202) 759-6544 if you are not sure how to respond to a notice of proposed disciplinary action. Flexible payment options are available.