Failure to Follow Instructions Explained

A “Failure to Follow Instructions” charge for federal employees is not a specific legal term or charge like a criminal charge is. Instead, this charge comes about when a federal employee does not comply with the policies, procedures, or orders established by their agency or supervisor. It is typically considered a violation of the employee’s duty to follow established rules and guidelines.

Breaking Down the Charge

When a federal employee is charged with a failure to follow instructions, it’s important to understand the nature of the charge and how to address it. Below are steps you can take to address this situation: 

Understand the Charge: Start by thoroughly understanding the nature of the charge. What specific instructions or orders were allegedly not followed? What is the basis for this accusation? Review any written communication or documentation related to the alleged failure to follow instructions. 

Review Your Employment Agreement and Handbook: Consult your employment agreement and the agency’s employee handbook or regulations to understand the rules and expectations governing your employment. Ensure you are familiar with your responsibilities and obligations as a federal employee. 

Gather Evidence: Collect any evidence that supports your position. This may include emails, memos, or other records that document your actions and decisions regarding the instructions in question. 

Consult with a Union Representative or Federal Employment Attorney: If you are a member of a union, contact your union representative for guidance and support. If you are not a union member or believe you need additional assistance, our experienced federal employment attorneys can help you understand your rights and responsibilities and guide you through the process. 

Meet with Your Supervisor or Agency Representative: Request a meeting with your supervisor or the person who issued the instructions to discuss the allegations. Be prepared to present your side of the story, share any evidence you’ve gathered, and seek clarification on the expectations. 

Explore Resolution Options: In some cases, the failure to follow instructions charge may be resolved through discussions with your supervisor or agency management. They may withdraw the charge if they are convinced it was a misunderstanding or that you acted reasonably under the circumstances. 

Request a Formal Hearing: If informal resolution attempts fail or if the charge is severe, you may be entitled to a formal hearing or appeal process. Consult your employment agreement or agency regulations for details on the process to request a hearing. 

Cooperate with the Investigation: If an investigation is launched, cooperate fully with the process. Provide requested information and attend meetings as required. 

Legal Representation: If the matter escalates, consider retaining legal representation to help you navigate the formal hearing or appeal process. Our federal employment attorneys can provide legal advice and advocate on your behalf. 

Be Prepared for Possible Outcomes: Understand that the outcome of the charge can vary, from exoneration to disciplinary actions, depending on the severity of the alleged failure to follow instructions and the evidence presented. 

Failure to Follow Instructions Possible Consequences

When a federal employee fails to follow instructions or policies, the consequences can vary depending on the severity of the breach, the agency’s specific policies, and the nature of the job. Potential consequences may include: 

Verbal or written reprimands: You may receive a warning, counseling, or a written reprimand outlining the failure to follow instructions and the need for improvement. 

Suspension: In more serious cases, you might face a temporary suspension from work, without pay. 

Termination: Repeated or severe violations of instructions or agency policies could result in termination or dismissal from federal employment. 

Legal consequences: In some cases, failure to follow instructions may lead to legal action if it results in harm, financial loss, or a breach of the law. 

Federal agencies typically have their own specific procedures and disciplinary policies for addressing employee misconduct.  These can vary widely between agencies. Employees are often entitled to due process, including the opportunity to respond to allegations and appeal disciplinary actions. It’s important to obtain a qualified attorney to help you navigate the process.

Federal Employment Attorneys You Can Trust

If you’re a federal employee facing a failure to follow instructions charge, it’s important to take the correct steps to protect your rightsOur highly skilled team of federal employment attorneys have decades of experience successfully fighting failure to follow instructions chargesWe will work with you and for you to ensure you understand your options and you obtain a favorable outcomeContact us today to schedule a consultation.  

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Frequently Asked Questions

Federal employees are protected from discrimination based on sex, gender, color, race, national origin, religion, age, and disability, and have the right to file an EEO complaint against their agency should they face discrimination. Federal employees also have the right to due process before being subjected to an adverse action  

Yes, federal employees can sue for discrimination, but first you must exhaust administrative remedies, which includes filing a formal complaint with your agency and letting 180 days pass. In many instances, federal employees elect to pursue their EEO complaints through the EEOC’s hearing process instead of filing a civil action. 

Federal employees must initiate contact with an EEO Counselor within 45 days of any act of discrimination. After an informal complaint stage, you will be issued a Notice of Right to File a formal complaint, which will permit you 15 days to do so.  

Federal employees do not have the right to sue for wrongful termination the way private sector employees do, but most federal employees have the right to appeal a removal to the MSPB, which will adjudicate whether the Agency can sustain any charges raised against you.  

Yes, most federal employees can file a complaint against their agency with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) if they are facing whistleblower retaliation. If OSC does not accept your complaint for investigation and prosecution, OSC will issue you an Individual Right of Action (IRA) notice giving you the right to pursue corrective action at the MSPB. Federal employees do not have the right to sue in court under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

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