Recently, we noticed a trend in federal employees contacting us with only a few days remaining in their response period in connection with a notice of proposed removal or suspension. Waiting to begin addressing a notice of proposed removal from federal service severely undermines the ability of federal employees to substantively respond to proposed actions. Note, we previously covered Responding to Proposed Actions in this article (click here). This article is designed to provide immediate first steps when a federal employee receives a notice of proposed action.
- Receive the proposed notice. Many employees attempt to avoid or reject delivery of a notice of proposed action. Reacting in this manner just creates unnecessary conflict with no purpose and makes the employee appear unprofessional, if not childish. The agency is going to proceed with the action nevertheless. Remember, this is just a proposed action. You should act professional at all times throughout this process.
- Read the notice entirely. Twice. The agency is obligated to provide you clear notice, whether proposing a suspension or removal action. All procedures and rights will be contained in the proposed action. If you have additional questions, you should contact the point of contact listed in the document.
- Ensure you obtain the complete “evidence file”. The agency is obligated to provide an affected employee with all information relied upon in arriving at the decision to propose the action. This is the same information upon which the deciding official will rely in making a final agency decision concerning the proposed action. Bargaining unit employees should consult their Master Agreements for particularities. Some agencies provide this information upfront whereas some agencies may require you to request the information. Either way, this information is critical.
- Assess critical dates. Ensure you calculate all critical dates carefully. These dates include submission of written and oral replies and the earliest date the agency can implement a final decision (typically no earlier than thirty calendar days from receipt of the proposed action).
- Extension of time. Determine whether you need an extension of time to respond and make the request if needed. Extension’s of time are typically granted for legitimate reasons such as need to obtain additional information, obtaining medical information, or in especially complex cases involving a great deal of evidence. Extensions of time are generally not granted because an employee will not be available such as on already approved leave.
- Obtain representation. Employees should immediately contact their union representative (If applicable) or seek qualified representation or consultation as quickly as possible.
The first steps indicated above should be completed within the first day or two following receipt of a proposed action. It has been our experience that employees who wait longer than two days to complete the first steps will wait far too long.