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by PoP Sponsor May 7, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, a local employment and labor law firm that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Financial security concerns are the most common issue resulting the loss of of a security clearance. As a result, it is important that when a security clearance applicant or holder runs into financial issues that they act preemptively to protect their clearance.

In security clearance cases, financial issues are referred to as Guideline F cases. In Guideline F cases, the government’s concern is generally focused on how a person has handled his or her finances and/or his or her vulnerability to financial manipulation given a pattern of overspending or debt. The criteria for evaluating such cases are covered in Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD 4)

Here are 7 tips for clearance holders or applicants when dealing with financial debts and other issues:

1. Stay Current on Debts and/or Make Arrangements with Debtors.

Most security clearance clients seek our assistance when they have had multiple bills that are past due, delinquent, in collections or have been charged off. In some cases, the debts have been ignored.

In Guideline F cases, the existence of multiple, unpaid debts seems to be the most usual reason for the loss or denial of a security clearance. It is important to gain control of your finances in such situations in order to attempt to keep your security clearance.

2. Pay and File your Taxes.

Individuals in tax trouble or who fail to pay and/or file their taxes take a big risk in losing their security clearance. Tax issues tend to be viewed as more significant for security clearance purposes than regular debts because they are owed to the government. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor April 23, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, a local employment and labor law firm that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

We defend federal employees in proposed disciplinary actions. When a federal employee is facing proposed discipline it is important for them to speak with an attorney knowledgeable in federal employment law for legal advice and representation. This article outlines some brief thoughts for federal employees as they respond to proposed disciplinary actions.

Types of Proposed Discipline

Most proposed disciplinary or adverse actions for federal employees fall into 3 general categories for federal employees: (1) proposed suspension or demotion actions based on misconduct; (2) proposed removal actions based on misconduct; and (3) proposed removal actions based on performance deficiencies (i.e. a PIP).

Proposed Disciplinary Action

When a federal employee receives a proposed disciplinary action (suspension of 14 days or less) or an adverse action (suspension of over 14 days to removal), they should read over the notice very carefully. Each federal agency sets their own deadlines for submitting responses and requesting information relied upon and these deadlines are usually strict.

Along with a copy of the proposed discipline, when it is issued, the federal agency may provide an employee a copy of the materials in the evidence file (documents, reports, emails, recordings, video, photographs, etc) that they are relying upon in proposing the action (often referred to as the “information relied upon.”).

It is critical for a federal employee to request and obtain these materials prior to responding in writing or orally. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor April 9, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, a local employment and labor law firm that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

When an individual with a security clearance is submitted for a security clearance upgrade, any previously existing security concerns are scrutinized again, but at a higher level.

For instance, if an individual has been previously approved for a Secret level clearance and is then submitted for a Top Secret (TS) level clearance by their employer, the individual could be denied based on the same concerns that existed when he or she was approved for a Secret level clearance.

This more often occurs when the individual holds a Top Secret (TS) clearance but is applying for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) access, “TS/SCI.”

Clearance Upgrade Dilemma

One common problem with security clearance upgrades occurs when an employer submits a request to upgrade an individual’s security clearance (e.g., from Secret to Top Secret).

Sometimes the individual is made aware of the requested upgrade by the employer and sometimes he or she is not. It is possible that an individual can be approved for a lower level security clearance with existing security concerns, but that he or she can still be denied when submitting for a security clearance upgrade even if there are no new security concerns. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor March 12, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, a local employment and labor law firm that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

While it is not always possible to avoid litigation in employment cases, resolving an employment dispute without litigation, if possible, is strongly recommended and should be considered by both employees and employers.

We have represented both employees and employers and the benefits of resolution usually far outweigh the lengthy litigation process. Some benefits to consider include:

1. Avoid Extended Litigation: We have had employment cases in extended litigation that take between three to six years in the court process.

When going into an employment case, an employee and employer should consider whether it makes sense to litigate these types of cases over such a potentially long period of time.

Usually, employees do not want to have such a long period of uncertainty to their career, and an employer does not want to spend $50,000 to $100,000 (or more) litigating an employment case. Employers can also have similar uncertainties about staffing while a case is pending.

2. Limiting Costs: Extended litigation can cost a lot of money for both employees and employers.

Employees usually pay for these fees out of pocket and employers either pay these fees out of pocket or through increased premiums in their use of insurance defense policies.

Some of our most satisfied clients are those who have decided to resolve their disputes early in the process and save themselves money. They may reach a compromise that is not perfect, but sometimes it is far better than the result of the litigation. (more…)

by PoP Sponsor February 26, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, a local employment and labor law firm that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.,

The U.S. Women’s Hockey Team not only just won Olympic Gold, but significantly advanced the equal pay argument for all women.

Their victory and Gold Medal ended a difficult year on and off the ice for the team. They worked together despite almost losing their positions on the team in a hard fight for equal pay before the most recent Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In March 2017, about twelve months before the Olympics, the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team threatened to sit out of the Ice Hockey Federation World Championship unless USA Hockey agreed to treat them the same as the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team. The female hockey players sought equal treatment in comparison to the men’s team. Specifically, the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team sought the same salary, equipment, staff, travel, per diems and media publicity as the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team.

It is hard to believe that the dispute lasted nearly a year, but the U.S. Women’s Team won. They were awarded up to $70,000 a year in salary (up from $6,000). USA Hockey also agreed that the women’s hockey team would receive the same travel stipends and accommodations as the men’s hockey team, along with better marketing and media efforts.

In our practice involving equal pay, we are seeing more women employees challenging and demanding equal pay for equal work.

In April of 2016, we wrote about a similar challenge that was advanced by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, despite the fact that they had already won the World Cup in 2015.

The combined efforts of the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team and U.S. Women’s Soccer Team illustrate the fact that collective action and success by women can be key to eliminating egregious pay disparities for the same work. Their efforts also have a direct and positive impact on all other types of employment and equal pay disputes.

We represent employees in Equal Pay matters. If you need assistance, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook.

by PoP Sponsor February 12, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, a local employment and labor law firm that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.,

In our last post we discussed the security clearance application process. This week we’ll focus on how to prepare for the security clearance investigative interview.

If an individual believes that there is a good chance that problem areas exist in a security clearance application, he or she should expect to be asked about these areas by the assigned investigator. The investigative interview can vary in duration from an hour to several hours depending on whether significant security concerns exist.

Early preparation for the security clearance interview can help the individual’s confidence when meeting with the investigator and minimize any problem areas. Unfortunately, many individuals go into the interviews without thinking about or preparing for the issues that could arise and often provide incomplete information.

Don‘t react defensively to security clearance questions

It is important to be calm and positive about the issues when speaking to an investigator. In addition, arguing with an investigator will never benefit an individual since the investigator can have significant influence over the application process in the initial stages.

Be courteous and professional with the investigator

It is important for all applicants to treat the investigator with professionalism. If an investigator attempts to contact you, be timely and courteous in your response. Even if it is inconvenient to meet or return calls, not doing so could be detrimental. Promptly responding to the investigator can give the investigator a positive impression, especially if the investigator will be providing a recommendation regarding your ability to obtain or retain a clearance.

Be patient during the security clearance process

It is important to understand that the security clearance process can often take a few months to complete depending upon a number of other factors, including:

  • Whether the individual is a federal employee or government contractor
  • The number or significance of the security concerns
  • Delays in obtaining responses from federal agencies in seeking an investigative file
  • The general investigative backlog
  • The specific employer involved

There are a multitude of other considerations that can also delay adjudication so it is important to remain patient during the investigation.

If you need assistance with a security clearance issue, please contact our office at (703)668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also like and visit us on Facebook.

by PoP Sponsor January 29, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, a local employment and labor law firm that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.,

The District is home to many federal employees and government contractors that hold security clearances. These federal employees and government contractors are required to apply for and maintain security clearances. In some cases, the security clearance application process is straightforward.

However, if problems arise, they are typically discovered when the employee or contractor is about to complete his or her security clearance application through e-QIP or the government’s Standard Form 86. If possible, you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney who handles security clearance matters since each case is different. The following are some general guidelines:

Take time and answer security clearance forms carefully

This is one of the most important tips. Individuals often receive clearance denials because they did not adequately read the questions asked or proofread their responses on the e-QIP/SF-86 application prior to submission.

In some cases, if an individual does not take the time to read the question and answers “no,” when they should have answered “yes,” a clearance investigator might conclude that the individual was attempting to be dishonest. Such an oversight can be detrimental to obtaining or keeping a security clearance.

Be honest

This recommendation cannot be overstated. Individuals should be honest in all aspects of the clearance process. When an individual is dishonest during the clearance process, it could not only potentially bar the individual from receiving a security clearance, which would remain on his or her clearance record, but it could also raise a host of other legal issues, including potential criminal issues.

(more…)

by PoP Sponsor January 16, 2018 at 12:15 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By Kimberly H. Berry, Esq.

When an employee has been accused of engaging in workplace misconduct, the employer will sometimes conduct an administrative or internal investigation. Some reasons why employers investigate employees include discrimination complaints, threats against others, safety problems and workplace theft.

Purpose of Workplace Investigations

The purpose of workplace investigations is for the employer to gather relevant evidence regarding the employee’s alleged misconduct and determine whether the misconduct warrants a disciplinary or an adverse action (e.g., termination or significant suspension) within the requirements established by law, policy or regulation or with respect to the employer’s own liability.

Occasionally, these types of investigations can lead to a potential criminal investigation. Depending on whether the employer is federal, the District of Columbia, Virginia or involves a private employer, a supervisor or other designated investigator may be asked to conduct an investigation regarding the facts at issue. Employees may then be asked to provide verbal or written responses to questions regarding the alleged misconduct.

Duties to Cooperate

During an investigation, an investigator (often a law firm) will be hired to conduct a workplace investigation. They will review documents related to the investigation and/or interview witnesses, depending on the investigation. Employees, depending on their particular employer, may have a duty to fully cooperate with an assigned investigator or can decline to participate in the investigation unless they are ordered to do so.

For example, federal employees may decline to participate in an administrative investigation if it is voluntary. Refusing to cooperate with an investigation or providing false statements or answers during an investigation can be grounds for disciplinary action. Providing false statements, if made to a federal or other law enforcement investigator, can also subject an employee to potential criminal penalties. (more…)

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