Government workers are easy targets these days. A recent online article on the Federal News Radio 1500 AM website disclosed a U.S. Senate investigation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies regarding administrative leave. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is leading the investigation to determine whether federal employees at DHS are extending their paid leave with no medical justification.
Attorney Alan Lescht of Alan Lescht & Associates, P.C., a leading employment law firm in Washington, D.C., notes that it is not the civil servant who should be found at fault for running off with taxpayers money. He notes that many of his clients on paid administrative leave come to his law firm because they are not allowed to go back on the job, pending the outcome of an investigation by the department.
"People have these jobs because they want to work," Mr. Lescht says. "It's not like they go to St. Thomas for the next six months."
Like workers in any industry, federal employees are subject to medical conditions and mental illness that can be debilitating. Department supervisors have the responsibility to place an employee on paid administrative leave if it is determined that the worker's condition may be disruptive in the workplace or result in an incident which may endanger other employees.
When the worker is placed on leave, the department is required to complete an investigation to determine when or if the worker may return to work. It is the long durations of these departmental investigations that are raising eyebrows in Congress, but the accusations of fraud are falling on the worker.
Attorney Lescht continues with his explanation,
"Federal employees are not asking to be put on administrative leave; they're not going in and saying 'Hey, I want six months of administrative pay.' This is being imposed on them."
Alan Lescht & Associates, P.C., is currently representing multiple federal workers who are facing disability discrimination or retaliatory disciplinary action based on their supervisor's interpretation of agency policies. Mr. Lescht concludes that the employee generally wants to return to work as soon as possible, but is barred from doing so because of an investigation into the medical condition or behavior.
"To the extent that there's a general concern about this, it's really about management that are making these decisions. They are the ones who are taking their time to do the investigations, because it shouldn't take a year to figure out if someone did something. Usually with most federal employees the issues are not all that complicated."