The Law Office of Richard Vaznaugh

Expertise in Workplace Rights for California Workers

The Law Office of Richard Vaznaugh
505 Sansome Street
Suite 850
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: (415) 593-0076
Fax: (415) 653-8935

Federal Employee Rights

Are you a federal employee? Are you wondering what your rights are as a federal employee? Employees who work for the government have rights that are protected by the U.S. Constitution during their employment relationship with the government, such as the right to free speech, right against self-incrimination, and right to due process. Federal employment is also subject to laws and other requirements that govern different aspects of employment, such as hiring protocols, union membership rules, and payment schedules.

1. Who is a federal employee?

If you are employed by an agency within one of the three branches (executive, legislative, or judicial) of the U.S. government, you are a federal employee. Government contractor employees are not federal employees; however, there are some specific regulations that apply to government contractors and give them certain rights, such as affirmative action requirements, sick leave, and pay transparency.  

The federal hiring process is subject to laws and regulations that require government follow specific procedural processes when hiring new employees. Typically, there are two types of federal positions: 1) competitive service positions and 2) excepted service positions. The hiring process for each of these is governed by different sets of rules as outlined below.

Hiring for competitive service jobs competitive service jobs require that the government go through a competitive hiring process when searching for new employees. This process may include an interview, test, or other evaluation, and is subject to Congress’ civil service laws. 

Hiring for excepted service jobs is generally more flexible than the hiring process for competitive service jobs. Excepted service jobs are also not subject to all of the rules that bind competitive service roles. For instance, exempted service jobs does not have the same appointment, pay, and classification rules that the competitive service has. 

Senior executive service jobs encompass federal positions that are right below presidential agency appointees. These jobs are managerial, supervisory, and policy-oriented and are in a General Schedule pay grade of 15 or above.

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2. Where do I find federal jobs to which I can apply?

You can find federal jobs and apply to them through the USAJOBS website, which is run by the United States Office of Personnel Management. See the Understanding the Federal Hiring Process webpage on the U.S. Department of Labor website for more information.

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3. Who is eligible for federal employment?

Typically, U.S. citizens who are members of the general public are eligible to apply for federal employment; however, there are some roles that are reserved for people who are current or former government employees, are veterans, or have disabilities. 

Current or former competitive service federal employees are eligible for positions known as “merit promotion jobs.” In some cases, veterans may be eligible for merit promotion jobs as well if the job application is open to candidates who are working or have worked outside of the hiring agency. 

Applicants with disabilities can apply to competitive service federal jobs through the Schedule A hiring process, which allows agencies to streamline the traditional competitive hiring process. Additionally, in some cases, hiring authorities can pick applicants who come from an exclusively Schedule A hiring pool. Read this U.S. Department of Labor webpage on Schedule A Hiring Authority to learn more to obtain your Schedule A documentation and apply for jobs. 

Applicants who are veterans, who served on active duty, and were separated under honorable conditions may be eligible for veteran’s preference as well as other veteran specific hiring options. See the USAJobs veterans page for more information.

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4. I am not a citizen of the United States. Can I work for the federal government?

Generally, federal positions are restricted to U.S. Citizens or nationals; however, there are some roles that are open to non-citizens. Job posts for federal positions that are open to non-citizens will include information within the listing about whether or not non-citizens are eligible for the role. See the USAJobs Employment of Non-citizens webpage for more information. 

Competitive service positions are restricted to U.S. Citizens and nationals (residents of American Samoa and Swains Island), unless there are no qualified citizen applicants. In such a case, the agency can seek Office of Personnel Management approval to hire the non-citizen. If a non-citizen is hired in a competitive service position, they will not receive competitive service status, but instead only have exempted service status. There are some federal agencies, such as the United States Postal Service, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that are exempt from competitive service hiring requirements. Similarly, there are certain types of positions, such as lawyers and chaplains that are also exempt.

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5. What is the hiring process like?

Typically, you must complete and submit an application and interview with the agency, then the agency will review the application and make a determination regarding who is the most qualified for the position. See the Department of Labor website for more information on the hiring process.

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6. Is a background check required to work for the federal government?

Yes, if you are applying for a permanent job, then a security background check is required. Whether or not a temporary employee must get a background check varies. If you are asked to complete a background check, you will likely be asked about where you have lived, worked, and attended school. You will also have your fingerprints taken.

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7. Is a security clearance required to work for the federal government?

It depends. Some federal government jobs require a security clearance, while others don’t. Whether or not a position requires a background check depends on the role’s involvement with classified information and level of access to secure facilitates. 

Federal positions that require security clearances are national security positions. A national security position “includes any position in a department or agency, the occupant of which could bring about, by virtue of the nature of the position, a material adverse effect on the national security.”

Federal positions that do not require security clearances vary, depending on whether or not the position involves access to sensitive information. Positions that require background checks but not formal security clearances are non-sensitive positions and public trust positions. Non critical sensitive positions require background checks to have access to non-sensitive technical input or administrative support facilities, but do not involve sensitive public trust or national security duties. Public trust positions are unrelated to national security, but still involve government operations, law enforcement, security, investigations, or access to personal, private, controlled unclassified, or proprietary information with the potential to damage the public’s trust. More information on security clearance requirements may be found here.

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8. Can I be hired by an agency that employs one of my relatives?

It depends. The Merit System Protection Board defines nepotism as “patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship.” It is prohibited by both criminal and administrative laws, and employees may not be involved in the hiring of their relatives. A relative includes: a “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother or half-sister.” If you are a federal employee whose relative is applying for a position or are applying for a position where a relative works, make sure that the employed relative does not exercise improper influence in the selection process.

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9. Do federal employees receive due process protections?

Federal employees receive due process protection in their relationship with their employer through the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Federal employees are entitled to certain procedural processes if their employer desires to suspend an employee for 14 days or less, suspend an employee for more than 14 days, remove an employee, reduce an employee’s grade, reduce an employee’s pay, or furlough an employee for more than 30 days. Similarly, employees are protected from Prohibited Personnel Practices that impact their employment.

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10. What is an adverse employment action?

The following actions are adverse employment actions: removal, demotion, and suspension.

  • Removal is when an agency terminates an employees’ employment.
  • Demotion is a reduction in pay or grade.
  • Suspension is when an employee is temporarily placed without duties or pay due for disciplinary reasons.

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11. Does my employer have to notify me if it desires to take an adverse employment action against me?

Yes, your employer must provide you with written notice if it is proposing to take an adverse employment action against you. If the action is a suspension of 14 days or less, then the agency must provide the notice and allow a “reasonable” amount of time for you to answer, no less than 24 hours. The agency must also provide a written decision with an explanation about their decision. If the action is a suspension of 14 days or more, a removal, or a pay reduction, then the agency needs to provide you with written notice at least 30 days in advance. The notice must list the specific reasons for the proposed action. 

This process must be followed in all cases except when the employer has reasonable cause to believe that you have committed a crime for which you can be imprisoned, which means, in the case of removal, that the employer can show that it is more likely than not that you have committed the crime. The notice period in these cases the notice period is shortened to at least seven days.

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12. What is misconduct?

Misconduct includes the following actions:

  • Absence without leave and attendance irregularities.
  • Falsification of documents, except for those that must be referred to a Regional Inspector General.
  • Conducting personal business during duty hours.
  • Fighting, threatening, or using abusive language to coworkers, supervisors, or the public.
  • Refusal or failure to follow instructions or procedures.
  • Neglect of duty.
  • Misuse of Government vehicles.
  • Off duty conduct resulting in arrest or conviction. Investigation into such matters will normally be limited to gathering information from law enforcement officials. No action should be taken which could interfere with an investigation being made by law enforcement officials or prosecution.
  • Use of Government facilities, supplies, equipment, services, telephones, or personal for other than official purposes.
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Falsification of an application for employment.
  • Intoxication or consumption of alcohol or drugs while on duty.
  • Prohibited political activity.

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13. What happens if I am accused of misconduct?

If you are accused of misconduct, your agency must conduct an investigation into the accusation. An investigator will look into the allegations, a process which might entail written statements from witnesses under oath. After the investigation is complete, the investigator will provide an investigation report to the agency. Employees who are being investigated must cooperate with the investigation and provide information relevant to the investigation if requested. 

If the investigation reveals that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations, then no further action will be taken. If the investigation reveals that there was sufficient evidence to support the allegations, then the agency will determine the appropriate response. If the agency’s response is an appealable adverse action (such as removal, demotion, or a suspension longer than 14 days), then you can appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board for a review of the decision.

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14. Can my employer punish me more than once for the same situation?

Your agency will make a decision regarding whether or not to go through with the employment action and provide a written statement explaining this decision. If your agency ultimately decides to take the action, and the action is an appealable adverse action, then you can appeal the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board if you believe that the agency did not follow the procedural process that is required when taking adverse employment actions. An appealable adverse action is removal, demotion, pay reduction, or suspension of 14 days or more. You can submit your appeal through the Merit Systems Protection Board’s e-Appeal website. Visit the Merit Systems Protection Board’s informational website to learn more about submitting an appeal.

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15. What is the Merit System Protection Board?
The Merit Systems Protection Board is an independent, quasi-judicial agency in the Executive branch that serves as the guardian of Federal merit systems.

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16. How does the Merit Systems Protection Board process work?

Whenever the government takes an adverse action against an employee, they legally must follow specific procedural processes. A public employee can appeal the government’s decision to implement a removal, demotion, or suspension over 14 days to the Merit Systems Protection Board. During the Merit Systems Protection Board process, the allegations of improper procedural conduct will be brought to an administrative judge. Note that this process does not apply to probationary employees. Probationary employees are employees who are in a trial period, which allows the government to assess whether or not the employee is a good fit before their employment is finalized.

Once you have appealed your agency’s decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board, then an Administrative Judge will be assigned to your appeal. The Administrative Judge will issue and transmit a copy of an Acknowledgement Order to both you and your agency. The order will direct your agency to supply a statement about why they plan to take the adverse employment action against you, as well as supply the evidence used to support their decision. The Administrative Judge will be in contact with both you and the agency about documents that you need to file, and the Administrative Judge typically holds one or more status or prehearing conferences to determine the scope of the appeal.  

Then the Administrative Judge will either hold a hearing on the appeal or issue a decision based on the written record and issue an initial decision. If you or the agency want to appeal the initial decision, you can file a petition for review with the Clerk of the Board in Washington, D.C. You may also file a petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

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17. How long do I have to file a Merit Systems Protection Board claim?

A petition for Merit Systems Protection Board review must be filed within either 35 days after the issue of the initial decision or 30 days after you have received the decision, whichever is later. Do not delay in filing this claim.

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18. Am I allowed to retain a lawyer if I have received notice of proposed removal, demotion, or suspension of more than 14 days?

Yes, you are allowed to retain representation by a lawyer if you have received notice of proposed removal, demotion, or suspension of more than 14 days. See workplacefairness.org for more information on how to find an attorney who represents federal employees.

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19. My agency told me they are going through a job reduction, what are my rights?

If your agency is going through a Reduction-In-Force, it must use the official Reduction-In-Force process established by the Office of Personnel Management. To determine which employees will be released and which will be retained, the following factors will be considered: tenure, veteran status, length of service, and performance.

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20. I have been terminated from my position as a federal employee. Can I apply for unemployment insurance?

If you have become unemployed through no fault of your own, you can apply for unemployment compensation through the Employment Compensation for Federal Employees program. The eligibility requirements for the Employment Compensation for Federal Employees program are the same as the regular unemployment insurance claims. You should file your claim in the state in which you reside. 

See the Federal Employees-Discipline/Removal section of workplacefairness.org for more information.

See the Unemployment Insurance section of workplacefairness.org for more information.

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21. What is probationary employment?

When they are first hired, Federal competitive and excepted employees on a permanent appointment track must go through a probationary or trial period of employment. This period allows the government to evaluate the employee’s performance before the employment becomes final and before the employee receives the rights and protections that non-probationary employees, those who have already been through the probationary period, receive.

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22. What is the probationary period?

When they are first hired, Federal competitive and excepted employees on a permanent appointment track must go through a probationary or trial period of employment. This period allows the government to evaluate the employee’s performance before the employment becomes final and before the employee receives the rights and protections that non-probationary employees, those who have already been through the probationary period, receive. At any point during the probationary period, your employer may terminate your employment.

When they are first hired, Federal competitive and excepted employees on a permanent appointment track must go through a probationary or trial period of employment. This period allows the government to evaluate the employee’s performance before the employment becomes final and before the employee receives the rights and protections that non-probationary employees, those who have already been through the probationary period, receive. At any point during the probationary period, your employer may terminate your employment. 

For federal competitive service roles, excluding roles within the Department of the Defense, the probationary period is one year. For competitive service employees within the Department of Defense, the probationary period is two years. For exempted service, the probationary period usually two years, but this time period varies. 

 

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23. What are my rights as a federal competitive service probationary employee?

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has outlined the rights of probationary competitive service employees. When a competitive service probationary employee is removed from their position for some reason before they are permanently appointed to their position, the probationary employee must be provided with advanced written notice of the removal with details for the proposed action. Probationary competitive service employees must also be given a reasonable time to answer, and they must be delivered a notification in writing of the removal as soon as practicably possible. If a competitive service employee receives a notice of removal, then they can appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board on the grounds of an alleged procedural issue. 

If a competitive service employee is removed for performance or conduct reasons, then the agency will provide a written notification to the probationary employee that explains why they are being removed. Probationary employees do not have a right to a notice of termination. Excluding cases in which the termination is required by law, the probationary employee may appeal if they are alleging the termination was due to political partisanship or marital status.

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24. What are Prohibited Personnel Practices?

There is certain conduct that federal employees are prohibited from participating in, and these actions are called Prohibited Personnel Practices. The policies governing Prohibited Personnel Practices establish which activity is not tolerated by the federal government and provides avenues for relief for those employees who feel their rights have been violated.

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25. What practices are prohibited under the Prohibited Personnel Practices policies?

Practices that are prohibited include:

  • Discrimination
  • Consideration of political influence
  • Coercion of political activity
  • Obstructing the right to compete for employment
  • Influencing withdrawal from competition for employment
  • Granting any preference or advantage not authorized by law
  • Nepotism
  • Retaliation against a whistleblower
  • Retaliation against an employee who has engaged in protected activity
  • Taking personnel actions on the basis of conduct that does not adversely affect performance
  • Violating veteran’s preference
  • Violating merit system principles
  • Implementation or enforcement of nondisclosure forms, policies, and agreements that conflict with whistleblowing protections
  • Improperly accessing employees’ medical records.

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26. What do I do if I believe my supervisor has committed a Prohibited Personnel Practice?

If the practice was done in connection with an otherwise appealable action, such as any adverse action, reductions in force, and certain performance-based actions, amongst other things, then you can appeal the issue to the Merit Systems Protection Board. If the practice you are concerned about is not an otherwise appealable action, such as a claim under the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998, Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, or the Whistleblower Protection Act, then you must rely on the Office of Special Counsel to request corrective action.

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27. What process is there if my supervisory says I have performance issues?

Federal employees may be entitled to certain procedural processes if their employer perceives some sort of performance issue. These procedural processes include performance improvement plans, including a structured plan for improvement, notification of supervisor’s concerns, and an appeals process.

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28. What is a performance improvement plan?

A Performance Improvement Plan is a formal process during which employees are evaluated due to some perceived performance issue. If a federal employee’s supervisor believes that an employee has unacceptable performance in a critical element of the job description, then the supervisor will place the employee on a performance improvement plan. The time period that the federal government typically gives for performance improvement plan is 90 days to improve the performance.

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29. How will I know if I am placed on a performance improvement plan?

You will be given performance improvement plan paperwork that will inform you specifically of the elements of performance that need to be improved, the standards by which your performance will be evaluated, the assistance that will be offered to you to help you improve, and a statement that, if your performance improves but then lapses again on the same critical element within one year from the beginning of the performance improvement plan, you may be subject to an adverse employment action without the implementation of an additional performance improvement plan.

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30. What happens once the performance improvement plan time period is complete?

If the agency determines that the performance improvement plan was not met, then an adverse employment action may be proposed. Federal employees may contest this decision through the Merit Systems Protection Board

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31. Does my federal employer keep a log of my information, including my Performance Improvement Plans, during my employment?

The agency keeps papers with your information in an Official Personnel Folder, which is a permanent record. You may make an appointment with the Office of Human Resources Management to review your Official Personnel Folder.

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32. As a federal employee, do I have whistleblowing protections?

Federal employees are often afforded certain protections when they report wrongdoing within their agency, a practice known as whistleblowing. While there are variations in the application of whistleblowing law, federal employees generally may not be retaliated against for their reports. See workplacefairness.org for more information on whistleblowing.

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33. What is whistleblowing?

In the public employment context, whether one is a whistleblower or not can vary from situation to situation. In some instances, a whistleblower is one who reports wrongdoing within their agency; however, such situations are not always considered whistleblowing and determining what exactly is considered whistleblowing can be complicated. Visit the Federal Employee Whistleblowers section of workplacefairness.org for more information.

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34. What are the types of federal employee discrimination?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency that enforces federal employment discrimination laws. Such discrimination includes adverse treatment, harassment, denial of a reasonable workplace accommodation, or retaliation for reporting discrimination. 

Adverse treatment is discrimination in the form of an employment action that adversely impacts an employee, such as denial of promotion, non-hire, denial of job benefits, demotion, suspension, or removal. 

Harassment in the workplace is “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).” Harassment is unlawful in the workplace when it because a condition of the employment or when it is so severe that it creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive work environment.

Denial of a reasonable workplace accommodation occurs when an employer fails to provide a “change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment,” “unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.”

See workplacefairness.org for more information on discrimination.

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35. I am a federal employee. Can I sue the agency I work for if I believe I have been discriminated against?

In most cases, you must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before you can file a discrimination lawsuit as a federal employee. Filing a charge under the Equal Pay Act and age discrimination lawsuits are exceptions to this rule.

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36. What do I do if I think my federal employer has discriminated against me?

You must contact an Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor at the agency for which you work within 45 calendar days of the discriminatory act. The Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor will offer Alternative Dispute Resolution; however, you may choose to participate in either Alternative Dispute Resolution or Equal Employment Opportunity counseling. Once you have gone through either of these processes, and, if you still wish to pursue your claim, you may file a complaint with your agency.

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37. Do federal employees have a right against self-incrimination?

Yes. Federal employees’ right against self-incrimination in the workplace is protected through the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This means that federal employees cannot be compelled to incriminate themselves by their employer when they are being investigated.

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38. How are federal employees protected from self-incrimination?

Federal employees have what are known as “Garrity” rights. These rights mean that federal employees cannot be forced to testify against themselves in a criminal proceeding.

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39. Am I protected from self-incrimination if I voluntarily self-incriminate?

No, the Fifth Amendment only protects federal employees from compelled self-incrimination. This means that the government cannot threaten a federal employee to force them to incriminate themselves. For instance, the government cannot threaten to fire an employee unless they testify about their conduct. If, however, a statement is given voluntarily, without any sort of threat or other mechanism of compulsion, then the Fifth Amendment does not apply.

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40. What happens if my employer threatens me to self-incriminate?

If your employer forces you to incriminate yourself, then that testimony may not be used in criminal prosecution against you. You may still be prosecuted; however, the testimony may not be used as evidence.

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41. Do federal employers have to meet Occupational Safety and Health standards?

Yes. Federal employers must meet the health and safety guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, just like private employers do. While most federal agencies will not be fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they will be monitored, and the administration will respond to agency workers’ complaints.

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42. What Occupational Safety and Health guidelines do Federal employers have to follow?

Federal agencies must abide by Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety and health standards. These include the obligation to:

  • Provide workplaces free from recognized health and safety hazards.
  • Establish procedures for responding to workplace emergencies and reporting unsafe and unhealthful working conditions.
  • Acquire, maintain, and require the use of approved personal protective equipment.
  • Inspect all workplaces annually with employee representatives present.
  • Establish procedures to assure that employees are not subject to restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal for exercising their rights under an agency’s safety and health program.
  • Post notices of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions found during inspections.
  • Abate hazardous conditions promptly, and notify employees exposed to such conditions.
  • Correct conditions immediately that involve imminent danger.
  • Keep records of accidents, injuries, illnesses and their causes, and post annual summaries for the required period of time.
  • Conduct occupational health and safety training for top management, supervisors, safety and health personnel, employees, and employee representatives.
  • Comply with all OSHA occupational safety and health standards and rules.
  • Develop and implement a site-specific safety and health program consistent with OSHA standards.
  • Display conspicuously a poster informing employees of the provisions of the OSH Act, Executive Order 12196, and the agency safety and health program under 29 CFR Part 1960.
  • Designate an official with sufficient authority to manage the agency occupational safety and health program.

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43. What are my rights as a federal employee under the Occupational Safety and Health guidelines?

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, federal employees have the right to:

  • Participate in their agency’s health and safety program and related activities on official time;
  • Access their agency’s safety and health information, including data on hazardous substances in the workplace;
  • Comment on proposed agency standards that differ from Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards;
  • Obtain copies of medical and exposure records; and
  • Report and request inspections of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions to federal officials, including the Secretary of Labor.

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44. Which federal agencies can be fined for violating Occupational Safety and Health requirements?

While the majority of federal agencies will not be fined, the U.S. Postal Service can be subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspections, citations, and fines.

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45. How do I report an Occupational Safety and Health violation?

You can report an Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website, by fax, by mail, by email, by telephone, or in person. To learn more about filing a complaint go to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration How to File a Complaint webpage.

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46. If I experience a work-related injury or occupational disease, am I eligible for workers compensation?

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) administers four major disability compensation programs which provides to federal workers (or their dependents) and other specific groups who are injured at work or acquire an occupational disease – providing the injured:

  • Wage replacement benefits
  • Medical treatment
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Other benefits

See the General Information About Workers Compensation page of workplacefairness.org for more information.

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47. What is the General Schedule Pay System?

The General Schedule pay system is a classification and pay system that applies to the majority of federal white-collar employees. The schedule operates on a sliding scale from 1-15 with GS-1 being the lowest grade and GS-15 being the highest. The grades have 10 step rates within them, and grade step increases are based upon performance and longevity of service. The minimum waiting period for grade step increases is 52 weeks for pay steps 2 through 4, 104 weeks for pay steps 5 through 7, and 156 weeks for pay steps 8 through 10.

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48. What is the Federal Wage System?

The Federal Wage System is the pay-setting system that applies to hourly blue-collar federal employees. This system aims to pay federal employees the same as other federal employees in their wage class and in line as similar private sector jobs in their wage class.

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49. What do I do if I believe my position is classified incorrectly?

For concerns about your General Schedule classification, you can appeal to your agency or to the Office of Personnel Management. For concerns about your Federal Wage System classification, first you must appeal the concern to your agency. Once you receive your agency’s decision, you have 15 calendar days to appeal to the Office of Personnel Management. For more information on appealing your classification, read this handout by the Office of Personnel Management.

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50. What level is my pay scale?

Federal pay scales are published every year. You can access pay scales from this year and years past using the Office of Personnel Management’s Salaries & Wages webpage.

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51. The government agency for which I work overpaid me. What are my options?

If the government has overpaid you, the National Finance Center will notify you by sending you a bill called the “Notice of Intent to Offset Salary.” This notice will inform you of the reasons for overpayment and when it occurred. You can send a waiver request to the agency that made the overpayment, and the agency will make a determination regarding whether to grant the waiver in full, in part, or not at all. Each agency determines its policies for waiver approval. Be sure to check your paystubs to ensure that you are getting paid correctly. You should report inaccuracies immediately. Once you receive a notice that there has been an overpayment, it is difficult to obtain a waiver to not have to pay the difference. To learn more about overpayment waivers, click here.

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52. I believe I have a wage and hour claim against my employer. What should I do?

You might have a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act. There are four avenues that you can take to resolve a wage and hour concern: 1. Filing through a negotiated grievance procedure; 2. Filing through an agency’s administrative process; 3. Filing with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM); or 4. Filing with an appropriate United States court.  

If the following conditions apply, then a negotiation grievance procedure is your exclusive remedy: “You were a member of a bargaining unit (i.e., in a bargaining unit position), AND

Your bargaining unit was covered by a collective bargaining agreement, AND Your collective bargaining agreement did not specifically exclude matters under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA or Act) from the scope of the negotiated grievance procedure.” 

Your ability to file in a federal court is not limited. You can file with the Federal agency that employs or employed you or the Office of Personnel Management if the following conditions apply: “You were not a member of a bargaining unit (i.e., in a bargaining unit position), or

You were a member of a bargaining unit not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, or

You were a member of a bargaining unit covered by a collective bargaining agreement that specifically excluded matters under the Act from the scope of the negotiated grievance procedure.” You cannot file with your Federal agency and the Office of Personnel Management at the same time.

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53. What benefits are available to me?

Depending on the nature of your position, the following benefits may be available to you:

  • Federal Student Loan Repayment
  • Alternative Work Schedules
  • Vacation, Personal, and Sick Time
  • Telework
  • 11 Paid Holidays
  • Child Care Subsidies
  • Child Care Workplace Flexibilities
  • Commuter Subsidies
  • Continuing Education and Professional Development
  • Dental and Vision Insurance
  • Elder Care Workplace Flexibilities
  • Employee Assistance and Referral
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Leave
  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Health Insurance
  • Leave to Care for Family Members
  • Life Insurance
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Pay and Leave Flexibilities
  • Reasonable Accommodations
  • Retirement Benefits 
  • Volunteer Activities/Community Service

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54. How do I enroll in healthcare and insurance benefits?

Current employees can enroll in benefits or change them only during the Open Season, which occurs every year. Certain qualifying life events, such as marriage or retirement, will allow you to enroll in or change the benefits outside of the normal Open Season period. Open Season is the annual period during which current federal employees may change or enroll in benefits. To learn more about the enrollment process, go to the Office of Personnel Management Enrollment webpage. New employees can enroll in benefits even if it is not Open Season.

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55. What paid holidays do federal employees have off?

Federal employees have the following paid holidays:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Inauguration Day (DC Metropolitan Area Only) – January 20 every four years
  • Martin Luther King’s Birthday – 3rd Monday in January
  • President’s Day – 3rd Monday in February
  • Memorial Day – Last Monday in May
  • Juneteenth National Independence Day – June 19
  • Independence Day – July 4
  • Labor Day – 1st Monday in September
  • Columbus Day – 2nd Monday in October
  • Veterans Day – November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day – 4th Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day – December 25

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56. What are my rights if the federal government shuts down?

If there is a government shutdown, you will likely have to wait for the shutdown to end before you receive your next paycheck, depending how long the shutdown lasts. As soon as the shutdown ends, you will receive backpay for the time you were furloughed or the time you have been required to work without getting paid, regardless of the scheduled pay dates. Time spent on furlough may not be counted against leave or other paid time off.

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57. I am unable to continue working for the federal government due to my disability. Can I apply for disability retirement?

If you have provided your agency with documentation of your disability and your agency has attempted to accommodate you through all available methods without success, then you can apply for disability retirement under the Federal Employees Retirement System.  

To apply, you must fill out the Application for Immediate Retirement and Documentation In Support of Disability Retirement. Your agency will help you fill these forms out, and they will forward the forms to the Office of Personnel Management. Note that the Office of Personnel Management must receive your disability retirement application within one year of your separation from your agency. If you have been separated from your agency for more than 31 days, submit your application directly to the Office of Personnel Management instead of going through your former employer agency. For more information on disability retirement eligibility and the application process, click here.

 

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58. Can federal employees join a union?

Generally, employees of federal agencies have the right to join or refrain from joining a union. However, federal employees, no matter their union membership status, are barred from participating in strikes.

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59. What do I need to join a union?

To be eligible to join a union, your role must be represented by a recognized bargaining unit. A recognized bargaining unit position is a position that is a role that is represented by a union, and more than half of federal government positions are covered by bargaining units.

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60. If my position is represented by a recognized bargaining unit, am I required to join the union?

No, you do not have to join the union as a paying member, even if your job is in a bargaining unit.

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61. How do I find an attorney with experience representing federal employees?
Here are some resources to help you find an attorney wigth experience representing federal employees.

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62. Are federal employees bound by the vaccine mandate?

President Biden’s vaccinel mandate for federal employees has been delayed due to litigation. Check out the Workplace Fairness COVID-19 resource center for more information.

 

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63. What unions and other organizations are open to federal employees?

African American Federal Executive Association (AAFEA) – Not a Union

American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) – Union

American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) – Not a Union

American Postal Workers’ Union (APWU) – Union

American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) – Not a Union

American Society of Military Comptrollers (ASMC) – Not a Union

Asian American Government Executives Network (AAGEN) – Not a Union

Association for Federal Enterprise Risk Management (AFERM) – Not a Union

Association of Customs and HSI Special Agents (ACHSIA) – Not a Union

Association of Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) – Not a Union

Association of Federal Narcotics Agents (AFNA) – Not a Union

Association of Former Agents of the US Secret Service (AFAUSSS) – Not a Union

Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) – Union

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations –  AFL-CIO – Union

American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) – Union

American Postal Workers Union – Union

Association of Government Accountants (AGA) – Not a Union

Blacks in Government (BIG) – Not a Union

Defense Acquisition University Alumni Association (DAUAA) – Not a Union

Executive Women in Government (EWG) – Not a Union

FAA Managers Association (FAAMA) – Not a Union

FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) – Not a Union

Federal Asian Pacific Council (FAPAC) – Not a Union

Federal Court Clerks Association (FCCA) – Not a Union

Federal Employees with Disabilities (FEDs) – Not a Union

Federal Executive Institute Alumni Association (FEIAA) – Not a Union

Federal Communications Network (FCN) – Not a Union

Federal Government Distance Learning Association (FGDLA) – Not a Union

Federal Judicial Assistants Association (FJAA) – Not a Union

Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) – Not a Union

Federal Managers Association (FMA) – Not a Union

Federal Physicians Association – Not a Union

Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association (FPPOA) – Not a Union

Federally Employed Women (FEW) – Not a Union

FedFam: Resources for Federal Employees and Contractors – Not a Union

FEDQ: A National Employee Resource Group For LGBT+ and ALLIES in the Government – Not a Union

GLIFAA, LGBT+ Pride in Foreign Affairs Agencies – Not a Union

Goddard Engineers, Scientists & Technicians Association (GESTA) – Not a Union

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) – Not a Union

National Air Traffic Controller Association (NATCA) – Union

National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees (NAPFE) – Union

National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) – Not a Union

National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) – Union

National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) – Union

National Association Assistant US Attorneys (NAAUSA) – Not a Union

National Association of Federal Veterinarians – Not a Union

National Association of Postal Supervisors (NAPS) – Not a Union

National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (NBCFAE) – Not a Union

National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA) – Not a Union

National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) – Union

National Hispanic Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (NHCFAE) – Not a Union

National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) – Union

National Rural Letters Carriers’ Association (NRLCA) – Union

National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) – Union

National Weather Service Employees Organization – Union

National Association of Black Narcotics Agents (NABNA) – Not a Union

Patent Office Professional Association (POPA) – Union

Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) – Not a Union

Presidential Management Alumni Association – Not a Union

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) – Union

Professional Managers Association (PMA) – Not a Union

Senior Executives Association (SEA) – Not a Union

Society for Federal Labor & Employee Relations Professionals (SFLERP) – Not a Union

Society for Government Meeting Planners (SGMP) – Not a Union

Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) – Not a Union

United Postmasters and Managers of America (UPMA) – Not a Union

US Marshalls Service Association (USMSA) – Not a Union

Women in Defense (WID) – Not a Union

Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) – Not a Union

Young Government Leaders (YGL) – Not a Union

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