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Security Clearances & Suitability

Security Clearances & Suitability
Practice Area

Alan Lescht and Associates successfully represents clients in matters related to security clearances, determination of suitability for federal employment, and background checks.

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance is eligibility to access classified information.  The federal government only grants a security clearance after conducting a thorough background check.  Depending on the level of access, the application process may include written questionnaires, interviews, and even a polygraph exam.  Many federal government employees and contractors are required to get security clearances.  However, the government can deny or revoke clearances for any number of reasons, including personal conduct or sexual behavior, contact with foreign nationals, alcohol and drug use, criminal conduct, or security violations.  The government can also determine that a job applicant is unsuitable for federal employment.  These decisions can seriously impair an employee’s career choices, especially in Washington, DC.

What is suitability?

The federal government makes determinations about whether job applicants are suitable for federal employment.  This determination is based on various factors, including misconduct or negligence in employment; criminal or dishonest conduct; false statements, deception, or fraud; refusal to provide testimony in civil service-related investigations; alcohol abuse; illegal use of controlled substances; engagement in activities to overthrow the government; and statutory or regulatory bars to lawful employment.  5 C.F.R. § 731.202.  A suitability determination also depends on the specific job.  If an individual is found to be unsuitability, the government can withdraw a job offer or terminate employment.

What are my rights?

You have the right to respond to the government’s reasons for denying, suspending, or revoking your security clearance, or for finding you unsuitable for federal employment.

Responding to a Statement of Reasons (SOR)

If the government intends to deny, suspend, or revoke your clearance, you should receive a written Statement of Reasons (SOR).  The Statement of Reasons will provide a detailed description of the reasons for denying or removing your eligibility to access classified information, and will notify you of your right to respond in writing.  This is your opportunity to deny allegations, correct any misstatements, explain what happens, and provide any other evidence to show that you should be granted or keep your clearance.

 

Depending on the circumstances, you may have other options.  For example, you may appeal the denial or revocation of a security clearance to the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), or another administrative body.   At a hearing, frequently referred to as a “personal appearance,” you may dispute the allegations against you and present any mitigating factors.  Our firm helps federal employees and government contractors overturn unfavorable security clearance decisions at DOHA and other administrative agencies.

Responding to a Negative Suitability Determination

You will receive a written notice if the government determines that you are unsuitable for federal employment.  The notice will list the reasons for the determination and will inform you of your rights and any deadlines.  You have the right to respond to the determination before the government takes action, such as withdrawing a job offer or cancelling your candidacy for a position.

 

We understand the suitability factors that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other federal agencies consider when reviewing the status of federal government applicant. Alan Lescht and Associates assists clients in responding to unfavorable suitability findings based on employment history; alcohol or drug use; credit, bankruptcy, and other financial issues; and criminal charges or convictions.  We will review your case and develop a comprehensive response to dispute false allegations, explain what happened, and identify mitigating factors.

Why should I hire Alan Lescht and Associates?

If you received a Statement of Reasons about your security clearance or a negative suitability determination, we can help.  We represent federal employees and contractors in connection with the following matters relating to security clearances, suitability for federal employment, and background checks:

  • Security clearance applications
  • Statement of Reasons
  • Letter of Intent
  • Notice of Proposed Indefinite Suspension
  • Negative suitability determination
  • Suspension of access to classified information
  • Security violations
  • Background checks
  • Settlement negotiations
  • DOHA hearings and other administrative hearings

Send us an email or call us at (202) 463-6036 to speak with an experienced employment attorney.  Alan Lescht and Associates offers strategic and results-driven legal services to federal government employees and contractors around the world.

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DHS rescinded proposed removal
Reinstatement of Security Clearance
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DIA rescinded proposed suspension
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DHS rescinded proposed removal

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed to remove our client for misconduct. We submitted a written response and represented the client at the oral reply, arguing that the agency failed to consider mitigating factors. We also highlighted several discrepancies in the proposal. The agency rescinded the proposed removal because of our submissions and our client was returned to work.

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DIA rescinded proposed suspension

We represented a federal employee with 26 years of military service and an additional five years of civilian service.   The client retained us to respond to a proposed five-day suspension for conduct unbecoming.  In the written response and oral reply, we demonstrated that our client had, in fact, acted in an exemplary manner under difficult conditions and in a crisis situation and that the charges were based on her supervisor’s insecurity and leadership weaknesses.  Based on our arguments, the agency rescinded the proposed suspension.

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Energy granted access to classified information

Our client, a contract electrician, received a denial of access to classified information based on his submission of an EQIP improperly referencing an arrest from 23 years prior. We submitted a written response and then conducted a hearing before the Department of Energy Office of Hearings and Appeals. At the hearing, we demonstrated that our client never intended to deceive the government regarding his arrest and that his conduct did not create a danger or threat to national security. After receiving an unfavorable ruling from the Administrative Judge, we appealed and filed for review to the Appeal Panel at the Department of Energy Office of Departmental Personnel Security, and we persuaded the Appeal Panel to overturn the unfavorable ruling, find in our client’s favor, and held that our client’s behavior did not constitute a threat to national security. As a result, our client was granted access to classified information, and was able to keep his job which required the security clearance.

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