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News from the Whitehouse: Unemployment, Debt & the Federal Workforce

News from the Whitehouse:  On January 31, 2014, President Obama issued a new presidential memorandum, "Enhancing Safeguards to Prevent the Undue Denial of Federal Employment Opportunities to the Unemployed and Those Facing Financial Difficulty Through No Fault of Their Own."  This presidential memorandum highlighted several issues concerning how unemployment and financial distress can impact federal employment.

The presidential memorandum dealt chiefly with two issues: the effect of prior unemployment on applicants for federal positions, and the effect of financial distress on federal employees and applicants.  First, the presidential memorandum prohibited federal agencies from citing 'suitability' issues to refuse to hire applicants just because they have periods of unemployment on their resumes, and should also not hold periods of unemployment against applicants in rating their qualifications.

Second, the presidential memorandum barred similar 'suitability' decisions against applicants with histories of financial distress, and also prohibited agencies from taking adverse actions against current federal employees due to financial distress.  These restrictions come with two major caveats.  First, this protection only applies if the financial distress was not the fault of the employee or applicant and if they are taking good faith steps to meet those financial obligations.   Second,  the presidential memorandum does not help those whose positions require security clearances, as personal financial problems are a criterion for denying security clearances (on the theory that individuals in financial trouble could be induced to take bribes in exchange for disclosing secrets). 

The presidential memorandum does not create any new avenues for legal redress.  While it does aim to encourage previously-deterred applicants to seek federal employment, it also highlights the need for federal employees and applicants to (a) keep their personal finances in order to the greatest extent possible, and (b) if financial difficulty occurs, to promptly make good faith efforts to meet those financial obligations. 

If you are a current federal employee or applicant for federal employment, and would like to discuss your rights, please contact the law firm of Passman & Kaplan, P.C. to request a consultation.  

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