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EPA OIG Report Reveals Common Problems in Issuing Discipline

A June report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Inspector General criticized the actions of agency management regarding disciplinary actions against employees. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) report alleged a “culture of complacency” at the EPA that led to lax time and attendance controls, as well as lengthy delays in issuing discipline to offending employees.

It was especially critical of how the agency had initiated disciplinary action that was recommended by the OIG, noting that the EPA had taken on average 200 days to do so, compared to the 30 days required by EPA policies. The OIG report warned of the consequences of not heeding its recommendations, stating that a “failure to do so could seriously affect agency resources, impacting the ability of the agency to achieve its mission and goals.”

While the EPA OIG’s report was centered on one specific agency, it contained valuable lessons for those in management throughout the federal government. One of the more difficult aspects of being a federal manager or supervisor has long been the proper and prompt initiation of disciplinary action. Overzealously meting out discipline is a sure path to a career full of EEO complaints and hostile workplace environment allegations, while lax effort to properly discipline your employees often leads to similar criticisms as outlined in the EPA report. A manager’s job is to strike the right balance between these two extremes.

One of the most effective ways to head off serious disciplinary matters is to correct troubling behavior as soon as it appears. Verbal counseling or even just informal “heads-ups” to your employees when you notice them doing something improper or beginning to abuse time or attendance privileges can help prevent these problems from snowballing to instances where serious disciplinary actions such as suspensions are necessary.

Of course, when serious actions are required, or when administrative investigations are ongoing, it is best to fully comply and issue actions promptly. The EPA’s OIG report criticized both the delays in issuing disciplinary action as well as obstruction within the EPA for OIG investigations. If you are a federal manager, it is in your best interests to issue needed disciplinary action as soon as you feel it is necessary: any delays just further gum up an already slow process and help contribute to issues surrounding problem employees taking years to resolve.

The disciplinary process is wrought with openings where you as a manager or supervisor are open to complaints. Whether these be EEO, hostile workplace allegations, discrimination complaints, or civil lawsuits, federal managers must constantly be aware of the exposures they have. The best protection from these exposures is a professional liability insurance policy from Federal Employee Defense Services (FEDS). The FEDS program provides you with legal representation and coverage in the event of job-related civil lawsuits, administrative actions, or criminal charges. The policy starts at only $290 a year, and the federal government requires that managers and supervisors be reimbursed up to 50% of this cost by their agency. Managers across the federal government have taken advantage of the ability to protect themselves and secure the peace of mind necessary to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. To learn more about FEDS today, visit www.fedsprotection.com or call 866.955.FEDS. 


For more information on your specific exposures now, how professional liability insurance protects, or how the FEDS program differs from other insurance programs, please visit the FEDS website and choose the Executive and Managers tab. For more articles like this one, read "Yesterday's Headlines, Today's Coverage" in the bottom left corner on the FEDS homepage.

 

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