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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