The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other federal agencies can find you unsuitable for federal employment for any number of reasons. But some reasons are more common than others. The most common reasons our firm encounters are:
- Misconduct or negligence in employment
- Material, intentional false statement, or deception or fraud in examination
- Illegal use of narcotics
Misconduct or negligence in employment
OPM and other federal agencies may find you unsuitable for federal employment if you have a history of workplace misconduct or negligence. The type of misconduct and the type of job makes a difference. For example, misconduct related to financial responsibilities is especially problematic if you’re applying for a job with fiduciary duties.
Material, intentional false statement, or deception or fraud in examination
It’s hard to hide prior workplace misconduct, drug use, financial debt, and other issues from the federal government. Frequently, lying about an issue, or just failing to disclose it, is worse than the issue itself. OPM and agencies will contact your references and former employers. It’s better for the background investigator to learn about your AWOL suspension from you than from your old boss.
Illegal use of narcotics
Illegal drug use is another common reason for negative suitability actions. However, certain factors, including your age at the time as well as contributing societal conditions may be mitigating. For example, smoking marijuana in college is not uncommon. But continuing to smoke on a regular basis after you graduate isn’t just “youthful experimentation.” Similarly, involvement in selling drugs, as opposed to just using them, or drug-related criminal charges will make it harder for you to prove your case.
What are my options if I receive a proposed suitability action?
Before the government can find you unsuitable, it must give you advanced written notice of the charges against you, a chance to review the supporting evidence, and an opportunity to respond. You can have an attorney or a non-attorney representative help you prepare your response. In your response, you may explain surrounding circumstances, deny any false allegations, and correct any misstatements. It is also helpful to identify mitigating factors.
In addition, you can attach exhibits to your response. For example, if the charges include misconduct in employment, it may be helpful to include a letter from your current supervisor that describes your good performance and conduct. If the charges include false statements or deception, you could include letters from former supervisors, colleagues, and personal contacts who can attest to your good character and honesty.
How can an attorney help me respond to a proposed suitability action?
If you’re applying for a federal job or the government is questioning your suitability, it may be helpful to consult an employment attorney. An experienced employment attorney can advise you about completing the eQIP and answering background investigation questions.
If the federal government proposes to find you unsuitable, Alan Lescht and Associates, P.C., can help. Our attorneys will work with you to respond to the charges against you and gather evidence of mitigating conditions. We represent federal government employees and contractors in matters involving suitability for federal employment.