Grievances in Federal Employment

Every federal employee who has passed their probation period is entitled to specific legal protections. If a federal employee’s rights have been infringed upon, they can avail themselves of certain procedures that may allow them to effectively voice their grievances and pursue appropriate recourse. The proper grievance procedure for any situation is typically dictated by circumstance and policies. It is a good idea to connect with an attorney to ask questions, if you are unsure how to file a grievance efficiently and effectively.

Challenging Disciplinary Actions

When federal employees are disciplined on the job, they are entitled to due process, which generally means clear notice of what they allegedly did wrong, and an opportunity to address the allegations. Often, federal employees have several options for challenging disciplinary actions, depending on the level of penalty and underlying circumstances.  For example, if the disciplinary action is an adverse action, i.e., more than a 14-day suspension, demotion, or removal, the federal employee may file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).  However, if the disciplinary action is a 14-day suspension or less, or a reprimand, the federal employee cannot file with the MSPB, but has the remaining options of filing a grievance internally, initiating an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint, or filing a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Most often, a federal employee may choose only one option, and the best type of filing and forum in each situation depends upon several factors best discussed with an experienced federal attorney who can fully explain each option.

The grievance process concerning disciplinary actions may differ depending upon whether an employee is classified as a part of a bargaining unit or a non-bargaining unit employee. Some federal employees must adhere to agency-specific policies, whereas others must follow procedures within their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). Those classified as non-bargaining unit employees are empowered to file administrative grievances in the wake of becoming targets of disciplinary actions. By contrast, union members whose rights are spelled out in CBAs must follow those procedures. Some grievance procedures end in arbitration, while others take agency-specific paths forward.

Challenging Prohibited Personnel Practices

Just as managers and others with authority in the private sector are empowered to take certain actions about the personnel at their companies, managers and others with authority in the public sector are empowered to take certain personnel actions. In both spheres of employment, however, there are limits by which those with authority must abide.

If a so-called “prohibited personnel practice” occurs in the public sector, a federal employee may file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) or pursue recourse in an alternative way. Examples of prohibited personnel practices include:

  • Unlawful acts of discrimination
  • Retaliation for protected whistleblowing activities or submitting a grievance
  • Violating veterans’ preference requirements
  • Engaging in nepotism

As this is a complex area of law, it is generally a good idea to connect with an attorney to clarify one’s options before deciding whether to file a complaint. Filing a complaint or grievance may limit an affected employee’s ability to take alternative actions that may be more appropriate under the circumstances.

Connect With an Experienced Federal Employment Lawyer Today

If you are considering whether to file a grievance related to your federal employment situation, connect with the knowledgeable legal team at Avery Dooley & Noone, LLP, in a confidential, no-risk, free consultation setting. Once we understand the nature of your situation, we can assist you in filing your complaint in the proper forum, sufficiently supporting your grievance with documentation, and communicating your concerns clearly. If you haven’t yet scheduled a free case evaluation with one of our highly experienced federal employment lawyers, please do so by calling (617) 489-5300 or contacting us online. We look forward to speaking with you.