Foreign Service Officer Representation
FSO Representation: Supporting Grievances and Representation During Investigations
The legal rights of U.S. Foreign Service Officers are governed by unique statutes and rules defined by the Foreign Service Act and the Foreign Affairs Manual. These laws, rules and procedures create a complex environment within a special jurisdiction that differs from other federal employees.
With more than 40 years of experience in that environment, KCNF is one of the few law firms with proven experience representing and supporting FSOs. We have handled a wide range of cases representing entry level to senior FSOs.
As advocates for members of the Foreign Service, we can help you evaluate and assess whether and when to consider hiring a private attorney to file or support your grievance, and provide you with knowledgeable and professional representation during an investigation.
Evaluation of Your Grievance for Merit
Before you invest your time – and money – grieving a decision, our attorneys offer a consultation to advise you on the merits of your situation and the options for the best possible outcomes. First, an attorney will provide a complimentary initial overview and recommendation. If the matter is straightforward and appears to have merit, the attorney may recommend retaining counsel. If the matter is complex or involves extensive facts, the attorney may recommend a paid consultation to perform an in-depth review and provide you with a detailed recommendation.
Common grievances successfully remedied by KCNF before the Foreign Service Grievance Board include challenges involving:
- Performance evaluations, including low ranking and non-promotion decisions
- Designations for separation, including time-in-class separation and denial of tenure
- Improper discipline
- Curtailment complaints
- Discrimination complaints
The first step in the successful resolution of your grievance is understanding whether your grievance (and a subsequent appeal, if necessary) has legal merit.
While many grievances appealed to the Foreign Service Grievance Board are unsuccessful, because we understand the landscape, we are able to provide you with critical information that will enable you to make an informed decision before moving forward with a grievance and appeal.
To schedule a consultation, contact us.
Navigating the Grievance Process Together
A written grievance must first be presented to your agency. If you decide to file a grievance, we can help prepare a sound legal argument and file it with your agency. If the agency denies the grievance, we will then recommend whether to appeal the denial to the Foreign Service Grievance Board.
Board proceedings are formal legal proceedings. Attorneys for your agency will review your grievance and represent the agency against you during the appeal to the board.
It is essential that you have experienced counsel on your side to build a strong legal case on your behalf. Our attorneys will:
- Engage in discovery, evaluate documentation, take depositions
- Prepare witness statements, exhibits, and evidence
- Ensure deadlines are met
- Draft a pleading with a sound legal basis based on current regulations and precedents
Settlements, Relief and Attorney Fee Reimbursement
The preparation and filing of the appeal by an experienced attorney increase the chances of success or a favorable settlement. Grievance remedies can include reinstatement, removing or amending performance reviews, reversal of a denial of promotion or tenure review, and other relief. Additionally, the Foreign Service Act allows for the reimbursement of attorney fees incurred on a successful appeal or settlement in specified circumstances.
Representing Foreign Service Officers in Disciplinary Actions or Investigations
For a Foreign Service Officer facing disciplinary or adverse action, nothing is more important than understanding your rights and fighting to protect them.
You are entitled to respond before the discipline or adverse action is issued and to review all the relevant evidence on which the agency relied in proposing the disciplinary or adverse action.
KCNF represents FSOs, and all other federal employees, with investigations and adverse actions related to:
- Disciplinary actions
- Misconduct allegations
- Pattern of assignment violations (investigation)
During the initial stages, our attorneys can represent you during the investigation and, if necessary, in replying to proposed disciplinary action, including the presentation of your oral and written replies to the agency’s deciding official. If the deciding official elects to issue a disciplinary action, we can assist you by challenging the action through the grievance process.
We also have experience representing FSOs and other federal employees on a variety of disputes, including:
- EEO (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) investigations and hearings
- OIG (U.S. Officer of the Inspector General) investigations and inspections
- OCR (U.S. Office for Civil Rights) investigations
- Investigations of workplace harassment and discrimination
- Whistleblower retaliation complaints
- Security clearance adjudication
We are here to help.
Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch is proud to represent the interests of all federal employees, including FSOs employed by:
- U.S. Department of State
- U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies, including the Foreign Agriculture Service and Animal and the Plant Health Inspection Service
- U.S. Department of Commerce, including the Foreign Commercial Service
- Other FSO employees with International Broadcasting Bureau, Voice of America, and Peace Corps officials, among others
If you have questions about your case, have been subjected to disciplinary or adverse actions, or need trusted, experienced advice about your legal matters, we can help.
Call (202) 331-9260 or contact us today.