Being Accused of Misconduct as a Federal Employee
The federal government takes employee misconduct incredibly seriously, and your career may be at stake if found guilty. Even allegations alone can hurt your reputation and can impede your career advancement. Consequently, if you have been accused of “conduct unbecoming of a federal employee,” you should take the situation seriously and take action to protect your rights.
If you are a federal employee and are facing a misconduct investigation, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel right away.
Examples of Conduct Unbecoming a Federal Employee
Misconduct charges can vary greatly, and conduct considered unbecoming of a federal employee can change and evolve over time. As such, “conduct unbecoming a federal employee” is a generalized term to describe various actions made by a federal employee that is believed to impact negatively or harms the agency and its service.
Examples of misconduct may include:
- Failing to follow instructions
- Misusing government property
- Stealing government funds or property
- Harassing coworkers
- Lying about hours worked
- Submitting a falsified vaccination record
A federal employee may also face a misconduct investigation if they engage in unbecoming conduct during their off-duty hours as well.
Note: misconduct allegations are typically unrelated to performance issues or political conduct.
Labeling Requirements for Misconduct Charges
A major reason why misconduct charges are so challenging to deal with is that, according to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the agency accusing the employee of misconduct is not legally required to label the conduct charge. Instead, the agency making the allegations can describe the actions they believe constituted misconduct or misbehavior in a narrative form. As such, any adverse or disciplinary actions taken due to these allegations may be legally sustained if they are able to prove that the “efficiency of the service suffers because of the misconduct.”
That said, if the agency alleging the misconduct chooses to use a label, such as “theft,” it must prove that the conduct meets the formal definition associated with the label. Proving misconduct becomes complicated, as many labels have multiple definitions found in multiple places. Consequently, it is not uncommon for agencies to avoid labeling misconduct.
Because of the vagueness surrounding the concept of “conduct unbecoming” and the way in which the alleging agency can avoid formal labeling of the conduct, defending against misconduct charges can be incredibly difficult without the help of an experienced lawyer.
Why You Should Hire an Attorney
Typically, before an agency takes disciplinary or adverse action against an employee accused of misconduct, they will investigate the allegations. However, just because the government is conducting an investigation does not mean that you will be vindicated or that things will go your way. You can never assume that your innocence is self-evident.
Under all circumstances regarding federal misconduct investigations, you should hire an experienced federal employment attorney as soon as possible.
Misconduct investigation can be either criminal or noncriminal. Regardless, you do not want to go through this process alone. At the Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, we have extensive experience representing federal employees, unions, and employee associations while they deal with misconduct allegations and investigations. We can use our knowledge and resources to help you.
From helping you understand the allegations brought against you to informing you of your rights and legal options, our team is here when you need us most. Contact us online to schedule a consultation.