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This could happen to You

I’m posting an additional blog this week asking for some advice from all you fine folks on GovLoop for a friend of mine. He too is a government employee of long standing. He works in an agency known as a dumping ground for outgoing political appointees who now need government jobs and unfortunately he is in his late fifties. After repeated pointed talks about retirement and some moves and changes of duties, his management has made some bizarre allegations and put him on paid administrative leave. Among other outlandish accusations, they claim that he was living in his office. Now, I’ve known this guy, his wife, and his family for years and I’ve dealt with him professionally as well; he is sort of my opposite number at another department.

It seems obvious that this is a scare tactic to force him into retirement and avoid having to defend against age discrimination. I was floored to hear about this, but I readily picked up that this tactic could be used against any of us when we hit a certain age. I had an uncle who used to manage a chain grocery store. When he approached the age where he would be fully vested in their pension fund, he was suddenly moved from one store to the next, each further and further away into far areas of the state. He caved and retired with the lesser pension.

I advised my friend to obtain legal counsel as the personnel offices have folks to advise you, but let’s face it, they work for the same management. Does anyone have any advice I can pass on concerning what to do or who to see? My friend may not only find himself railroaded into early retirement, but his pension may be in danger as well. Help is appreciated!

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Carla Steinborn

You gave him good advice: Get a lawyer. It’s expensive but sometimes it’s what you have to do.

The only thing I would add is that he should document everything. Keep records of all conversations: names, dates, what was said, who was present, etc. Even now, while he is on paid leave, he should be writing down everything he can remember, and writing down his activities at work.

I am wondering: What is their basis for claiming he was living in his office? What are the explicit allegations?

Ed Albetski

While he was on leave last week going to one of his kid’s graduations, management went through his office and removed his mini fridge and coffee maker. They locked his office and left the items in the hall. I guess that constitutes “living in your office”. Tough to prove as the electronic access card entrance device will show him entering and leaving each day. I’ll send you his mail to me. Deeply weird, Carla.

Charles Schaffer

If the employee believes he is being discriminated against due to his age he should refer to http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/fedprocess.html. Aggrieved persons who believe they have been discriminated against must contact an agency EEO counselor prior to filing a formal complaint. The URL covers the process to be followed. It’s entirely possible that the counselor can negotiate a satisfactory resolution.


I agree whith Charles’ comment in regards to the EEOC. Without having knowledge of all details, if after filing a charge with the EEOC and returning to work, new “harrassing events” happen, one could argue now there might be another reason for the harrassment – retaliation. I’m not sure what state your friend is/may be in, but look up the state laws as well (a good source is the HR office or breakroom – they should have posters outlining the laws in your friend’s area of residence). I know here in Arizona, we have a constructive discharge law that if working conditions become so unpleasant an employee feels compelled to resign, they should notify the employer in writing that the working conditions are so difficult they feel compelled to resign or intend to resign. They must then allow 15 days for the employer to respond in writing. If the employee feels that while waiting for a response, they cannot work, they are entitled to paid or unpaid leave of up to the 15 days. Obviously the objective here is the hope to work through the issue. An attorney (or I see employees use Unions) for assistance of course can always be contacted for guidance!

Ed Albetski

My buddy did get an attorney and they are studying the allegations now. I passed on the EEOC site info. Thanks, Tricia and Adriel!

Edward Zurick

Ed. What a horrible situation your friend is in! I am sure you rather not give out too much details or personal information, but I am curious as to what agency he works for. I have worked for the Treasury (strong union), Defense Accounting (DFAS) (also a decent union) and currently the Navy (most DoD activities have a pitiful union or none). And I can believe this is happening or has happened to many. I am also curious or confused at the “admin leave” statement. Are you saying they placed him on admin leave? If so, what was their reason and how long?

The biggest fear now is retaliation and harrassment in the work place that is very hard to prove. All management has to document is failure in their eyes and there isn’t much an employee can do. I’ve researched the EEO process within the DoD environment and I have to say that it is pathetic. It is also the only course of action in most DoD work places. The EEO staff works for the same mgmt that an employee within DoD works for. How fair do you think that can be? Lastly, and additionally scarey is the fact that within the DoD, your fight (arbitration) is you against mgmt. And they normally have a staff of attorneys working for them. Downright unfair and pitiful!

I do wish your friend and his attorney the best of luck and I hope that you can keep this blog informed of the progress. Sometimes venting is more helpful that you think…

Ed Albetski

Thanks, Jerry & Edward! I’ll pass these suggestions on. I’ll also post more details as things unfold. Yes, they put him on paid admin leave. Very odd. We know the management has been under pressure for months now to place some departing appointees from the last administration. They actually talk about it. Working in an agency that does not take politicals, I’m aghast at this. Is this a common practice?

Steph Savage

The employee has worked for the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency for the last 14 years without incident or bad appraisal rating. Has received no letters of counseling, but it seems they have attached to the letter concerns of probable violence towards fellow employees to the degree of forcing them to stay home in fear of their lives! (ALL PURE FANTASY) It’s the old Patriot Act bait and switch routine – – you are guilty and now prove you aren’t a terrorist in the office! I believe this is beyond venting – it is downright criminal in intent and is now a new government HR tactic used to get rid of the “undesireables.”