The Grievance Process

Should I File a Grievance?

If the matter jeopardizes your Foreign Service career, consider the value of these:

  • promotion
  • annual salary
  • post differential, danger pay, or locality pay
  • pension and TSP contributions
  • health benefits
  • job satisfaction, prestige
  • utilizing your regional and language skills
  • travel opportunities
  • difficulty of finding a comparable job

Your career and upward mobility are very important and should be vigorously protected when necessary.

Do I Need a Private Attorney?

Grievances are legal proceedings following written and common law rules. The agency has a staff of trained attorneys who will critically review your grievance and represent the agency against you in any appeal to the Foreign Service Grievance Board. Effective presentation of a grievance involves the following:

  • drafting a pleading with a legal theory based on regulations, statutes, and precedents
  • ensuring that statutes of limitation and deadlines are met
  • developing exhibits, including sharply-focused witness statements
  • avoiding inadvertent statements that will spoil your case
  • doing legal research, to include finding relevant precedents
  • composing interrogatories and requests for production of records.

If possible, you should retain an experienced private attorney at the outset so that the initial grievance pleading has a sound foundation and is free of tactical errors that cannot be corrected later.

Which Private Attorney Should I Choose?

Find an employment litigation specialist with substantial Foreign Service grievance experience, not a general practitioner (wills, divorces, etc.). I am the only employment litigation attorney specializing exclusively in Foreign Service grievances for over 30 years; AFSA lists me as an experienced grievance attorney on their website. In the free initial consultation I can analyze your case and give you preliminary advice. Much of our work is by email and telephone; messages and calls are promptly answered.  I can relieve you of stress by taking responsibility for the work and accompanying you through the process, while providing compassion and understanding.

What is the Grievance Process?

A written grievance must be presented to the agency grievance staff within the statute of limitations. Your attorney must develop the case; the agency does not do so. The agency either settles or issues its decision. If the agency denies the grievance, one can appeal to the Foreign Service Grievance Board.

In Board proceedings any discovery requests must be initiated promptly, after which briefs from both sides can be submitted, and then the record closes.  The Board will review the record, usually without a hearing, and issue a written decision. If the grievance is denied, one can appeal to the U.S. District Court. The court appeal will be adjudicated after briefing by both parties based on the written record with no hearing or trial. District Court decisions can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C.

Grievance remedies can include removal or amendment of performance appraisals, reversal of adverse actions, and review by reconstituted boards for possible promotion or tenure, as well as other measures to make the grievant whole.