Federal Employees Faced with Demotions

Federal employees, unlike most private sector employees, are protected by due process from adverse actions, including demotions. While this does not make it impossible to demote a federal employee, it does make it more difficult. Federal agencies must follow certain processes in order to demote an employee, and employees can appeal final decisions.

What is a demotion?

Demotions, or change to lower grade actions occur when a federal employee is moved to a position that is of a lower grade or lower rate of basic pay within the same agency.

When can a federal employee be demoted?

An employee can be demoted to a lesser grade or pay level in several ways, but two of the more notable reasons include a reduction in force action, in which the agency the employee worked for has lost funding or has a lack of work, and as the result of a disciplinary action taken against the employee for misconduct.

What protections exist for federal employees faced with demotions?

If a federal employee is demoted as the result of a reduction in force, the agency must have considered the employee’s status as probationary or non-probationary, as a veteran or non-veteran, and the employee’s performance reviews. Preference must be given to non-probationary employees, veterans and employees with strong performance reviews.

If the employee is faced with a demotion as a disciplinary action, then the agency must follow a process including an investigation, a letter to the employee detailing the disciplinary action proposed, the opportunity for the employee to respond with an oral or written statement, and a final agency decision.

Employees who are faced with the decision of a demotion may appeal that decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

If I believe I was wrongfully demoted, what can I do?

If you believe you were wrongfully demoted, for any reason, you should consult an experienced employment attorney to discuss the possibility of appealing the decision.

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