The employment rights of federal employees present a double-edged sword.  On the one side, federal employment laws protect federal employees from arbitrary and unfair treatment by supervisors and others in authority. And, without a doubt, when it comes to “job security,” federal employees are much better off than employees in the private sector. But on the other hand, federal employees are subject to various restrictions and prohibitions on conduct that do not apply to employees in the private sector.

As a federal employee, if you want to protect and enhance your career, you must understand the various rights and restrictions that apply to your position. The experienced federal employment lawyers at the National Security Law Firm are dedicated to helping federal employees understand their restrictions and protect their rights. We have helped employees who believe that they have been passed over for a job or promotion because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their age or sex, or because they have a disability. We have also represented employees who require accommodation due to a disability or religion. In addition, we have represented employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment or retaliated against, as well as those who have faced suspension, demotion, removal from service, or those whose security clearances were threatened.

The Merit System Principles

As discussed above, federal employees have unique rights, many of which are governed by specific laws unique to federal employees. Although working for the federal government comes with many protections, it also comes with many expectations and restrictions. In short, there are limitations on you as a federal employee that would not apply if you worked elsewhere.

These rights and restrictions are rooted in what is known as the “merit system.” Under this concept, federal employment is based on an employee’s competency and suitability, and employees must be given a reasonable opportunity to challenge decisions adverse to them that they believe are motivated by other reasons. That starts with an opportunity to reply before an action is taken and extends to the right to an outside review afterward.

The merit system can be contrasted with the former “spoils system,” under which employees could be fired for any reason, including simply belonging to the political party that was on the outside at that time. It took the assassination of President Garfield by a disappointed federal job seeker to start moving the U.S. toward the merit system. Over the years, numerous laws followed, including the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, which established the basic structure of today’s civil service law.

The key to the merit-based system is that employees should be hired, advanced, and disciplined according to their abilities and performance. The other side of the coin, however, is that there is an expectation that federal employees work for the nation as a whole and therefore that they are held to high standards of honesty, neutrality, and integrity, which translates into restrictions on their behavior – including, to an extent, behavior away from the workplace.

Under the merit system, restrictions are not always self-evident, and your rights are not self-enforcing. Thus, as a federal employee, you need to understand what limits are on you as a federal employee and what you may be facing if your supervisor or agency believes you may have crossed the line. On the other hand, you need to understand the various rights that come with your job and what protections apply to you if the agency crosses a line.

Our Services

The federal employment lawyers at the National Security Law Firm represent federal employees at hearings before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and other similar administrative and investigative bodies. Moreover, our federal employment lawyers are experienced in all legal issues affecting federal employees, including:

  • Suitability Determinations
  • Performance Appraisals
  • Performance-Based Discipline
  • Conduct-Based Discipline
  • Prohibited Personnel Actions
  • Alternative Discipline
  • Misconduct: Adverse Actions and Discipline
  • Discrimination, including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, and veteran status
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Whistleblowing
  • Reductions in Force and Furloughs
  • Security Clearances and “Sensitive” Positions
  • Title 38 (Medical Professionals) Employee Rights
  • Matters involving the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), including but not limited to, wrongful termination, discrimination, and other violations impacting your protected rights, compensation, and benefits
  • Overtime and Special Pay
  • Classification Appeals
  • Promotions and Within Grade Increases
  • Leave Issues
  • Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
  • Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program
  • Federal Dental and Vision Insurance Program
  • Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program
  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Compensation and Leave
  • Retirement
  • Veterans’ Rights
  • Ethics in Government
  • Constitutional Rights
  • Information and Privacy
  • The Hatch Act: Prohibited Political Activities
  • Personal Liability
  • VEOA Violations
  • Postal Service Employee Rights
  • Congressional and Presidential Employees’ Rights
  • Waivers of Overpayment and Financial Claims Against the Government
  • Administrative Hearings
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Complaints
  • Office of Special Counsel (OSC) Complaints
  • Inspector General Complaints
  • The Office of Special Counsel
  • Office of Federal Operations (OFO) Appeals
  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
  • The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA)
  • Union Representation
  • Administrative Grievances
  • Special Appeal Rights for Veterans
  • Federal Appeals
  • TSA Employee Rights

Choosing the Best Federal Employment Lawyer

If you are experiencing employment issues, you need a powerful advocate on your side. Federal employment law, with its laws, rules, and regulations, is complex and ever-changing. Thus, the best federal employment lawyers are those who are zealous in the understanding and enforcement of rights that federal employees have. Experience is key.

Countless laws, rules, and regulations apply to the federal workforce. Sometimes, agencies violate more than one of these laws in a long series of actions. Moreover, deadlines are often short and sometimes overlap between forums. In addition, some cases present numerous election of remedy issues, whereby employees must choose between different forums that offer relief. This can result in a maze of procedural nightmares that, if not properly navigated, can leave you with rights that cannot be enforced.

If someone unfamiliar with federal employment laws guides you, your case and potential remedies can be seriously harmed. Thus, we strongly recommend hiring an experienced federal employment lawyer to handle your case.

While many lawyers advertise their services as “federal employment lawyers,” few have the background and experience that federal employment lawyer John McGuire of the National Security Law Firm possesses. As further described below, John’s unique combination of civilian experience and military background distinguishes him from other federal employment lawyers.

  • Experience Representing Employers and Supervisors. John knows how employers and supervisors think because he used to represent them. As a Judge Advocate, John advised and counseled Department of Defense (DoD) military and civilian supervisors, helping them navigate their employment issues and litigation involving their federal civilians and contractors. He also represented private employers in civilian practice as General Counsel. John now uses this perspective and experience but has shifted his focus to his true passion: representing and defending federal employees, government contractors, and private sector employees in various labor and employment matters. The significance of John’s experience working for employers in the DoD as well as in the civilian world should not be overlooked or underestimated for two reasons:
  • First, for the same reasons that attorneys with prior prosecutorial experience make some of the best criminal defense attorneys, hiring a federal employment lawyer who used to represent employers means that your lawyer thoroughly understands both sides of the case. John understands how employers and supervisors think and develop their cases to present at a trial or hearing because he used to represent them. Accordingly, he knows firsthand just how weak their arguments may be and will be able to strengthen your case to exploit those weaknesses.
  • Second, John has handled hundreds of employment cases. As mentioned above, experience is key in this complex and ever-changing area of law. His experience allows him to see all angles and aspects of matters – from the start of an allegation to its conclusion.
  • Military Experience. John has experience representing both employers and employees in both civilian and military tribunals. For his entire career, John has served either on Active Duty or as a Reserve Officer in the United States Army JAG Corps. Thus, because John has served as a JAG officer for his entire legal career, he knows how your chain of command thinks, he knows what advice they are receiving from their own JAG, and he knows what is at stake for service members. Moreover, in addition to helping you navigate your employment issues, as a National Security Law Firm lawyer, John McGuire and his colleagues have vast experience handling all aspects of military law. They can proficiently advise you on other more nuanced consequences of employment issues on your military career, such as the revocation or suspension of your security clearance or your discharge from the military. Security clearance issues and discharges are highly specialized/niche areas of law that very few lawyers know about.  Thus, it is critical that the lawyer you retain to represent you not only has significant federal employment law experience but is also an experienced military lawyer. 
  • As mentioned above, John McGuire is an exceptional federal employment lawyer. When hiring a lawyer to represent you, it is important that you thoroughly research your lawyer’s background.  A great place to start is to ask friends and family for recommendations.  You can also search the Internet and check online reviews, which can be one of the best ways to determine a lawyer or law firm’s reputation.  Reviews also allow you to see what other clients have said about the law firm’s communication, organization, and fees.  You can read reviews for John McGuire and the National Security Law Firm by clicking here.  We believe they speak for themselves.

Powerful, Nationwide Representation

As a federal employee, you have greatly invested in your career. If your job, security clearance, or employment rights or benefits are threatened, you need the best federal employment lawyer on your side.

Although we are based in Washington, D.C., the National Security Law Firm serves federal employment law clients nationwide. To schedule a phone consultation with a federal employment lawyer, call us today at (202) 600-4996.


If you are appealing a security clearance determination, it is imperative that you obtain experienced legal representation. Doing so will provide you with the best opportunity to obtain or maintain your clearance.

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