Debra A. D'Agostino

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Employment & Labor Attorney in Washington, DC

Federal Practice Group
1750 K Street NW, Suite 900
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202-862-4360
Fax: 888-899-6053
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2018 - 2021
Licensed Since: 2016
Practice Areas: Employment & Labor: Employee (50%), Administrative Law (50%)
Attorney Profile

Attorney Debra A. D'Agostino founded her Washington, D.C., based law firm, The Federal Practice Group, with her partner, Eric S. Montalvo in 2011, after having practiced federal sector employment for over a decade. The Federal Practice Group is comprised of litigators focused on providing its clients with access to justice and protection of the rights afforded by the Constitution, and the firm's practice areas include federal employment law, government contracts, military law, immigration, asset forfeiture, and white collar criminal defense.

Ms. D'Agostino and her team of employment lawyers represent federal employees who are facing discrimination, discipline, or threats to their careers before various federal administrative forums including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Ms. D'Agostino has successfully taken on the federal government several times, and has routinely prevailed in forums with success rates of less than five percent.

Ms. D'Agostino is routinely looked to by her peers for her niche expertise in representing federal employees, including those in the intelligence community.

About Debra A. D'Agostino

Admitted: 2016, New York

Professional Webpage: https://www.fedpractice.com/Meet-Our-Team/D/Debra-DAgostino....

Educational Background

  • Bachelor of Arts from New York University, 1978

Representative Clients

  • http://www.abc15.com/news/local-news/investigations/sen-flake-calls-for-new-investigation-into-federal-power-agency http://www.azcentral.com/staff/16935/dennis-wagner/ http://www.abc15.com/news/local-news/investigations/open-the-books-az-senators-introduce-bill-to-make-federal-power-agency-to-share-financial-info, 2017

Verdicts/Settlements

  • Boyles v. Central Intelligence Agency, EEOC No. 570-2013-00431X (February 16, 2017)Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, successfully represented a senior CIA employee who faced retaliation after reporting disability discrimination and harassment following treatment for cancer, in an administrative hearing before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An Administrative Judge found the CIA liable for discrimination, and awarded appropriate relief., 2017
  • Complainant v. Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency, EEOC Appeal No. 012014863 (July 19, 2016)Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, obtained a finding of liability against the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for pregnancy discrimination on behalf of a client who was denied necessary training as a result of her pregnancy, and was thus denied a lucrative overseas assignment. Ms. D’Agostino obtained this result without a hearing, on appeal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after an Administrative Judge initially found for DIA on summary judgment., 2016
  •  Miller v. Office of Personnel Management, MSPB Docket No. DE-0831-14-0340-I-1 (April 13, 2016)An MSPB Administrative Judge ruled in favor of Richard L. Miller, who was represented at the Board by Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, in an appeal concerning Mr. Miller’s right to civil service retirement credit for civilian service time while he served in the armed forces. Following this decision, OPM appealed, and this matter is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  , 2016
  • Appellant v. Central Intelligence Agency, EEOC Appeal No. 0120162226 (March 7, 2017)After the CIA dismissed the Appellant’s sexual harassment complaint for alleged untimeliness, Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, successfully appealed the decision to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC overturned the CIA’s decision to dismiss the complaint and ordered the CIA to investigate the claims., 2017
  • Shimko v. Central Intelligence Agency, EEOC No. 570-2012-0138X, (September 19, 2016)Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, successfully represented a senior female employee who faced retaliation after reporting sex-based harassment, and then disability discrimination following treatment for cancer, in an administrative hearing before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An Administrative Judge found the CIA liable for all claims raised, and awarded appropriate relief.  , 2016
  • Moncada v. Executive Office of the President, MSPB Docket No. DC-0752-15-0954-I-1 (April 26, 2016)An MSPB Administrative Judge ruled in favor of Mr. Moncada, who was represented at the Board by Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, in an appeal of Mr. Moncada’s removal for alleged misconduct. Mr. Moncada was awarded reinstatement and other appropriate relief.  , 2016
  • Miskill v. U.S. Social Security Administration, United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, No. 2016-1598, (Decided July 20, 2017)Judith Miskill, who was represented by Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, and Tom Gagliardo, AFGE Local 1923, prevailed in a challenge at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to an Arbitrator's award sustaining her removal by the Social Security Administration for violations of the Agency's time and attendance policy. Because the Arbitrator's decision is not in accordance with law, the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the matter in a precedential decision clarifying the use of comparator information in a federal agency penalty analysis., 2017
  • Kayla Juel v. Department of Homeland Security, TSA, MSPB Docket No. DE-1221-14-0510-W-2 (December 12, 2016)Kayla Juel, a former TSA employee, blew the whistle on her management, which in turn removed Ms. Juel in retaliation for her whistle blowing. Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and then an Independent Right of Action (IRA) appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board challenging the removal. Following a hearing, the Administrative Judge ruled in Ms. Juel’s favor and ordered corrective action and other relief as appropriate., 2016
  • Stewart v. Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency, MSPB Docket No. AT-0752-15-0823-I-1 (May 9, 2016)Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, successfully represented a Senior Intelligence Officer at USCENTCOM who prevailed at the Merit Systems Protection Board on her appeal of discipline for alleged misconduct. That same year, the MSPB ruled in favor of the Defense Department in 99.7 percent of the cases that it heard. The Administrative Judge ordered corrective action and other relief as appropriate, including the cancellation of a related reassignment., 2016
  • Appellant v. DOD, MSPB Docket No CH-0752-15-0528-I-1 (February 26, 2015) An MSPB Administrative Judge ruled in favor of Appellant, who was represented at the Board by Debra D’Agostino, The Federal Practice Group, in an appeal of Appellant's indefinite suspension related to alleged criminal activity. The MSPB determined the Agency lacked reasonable cause to indefinitely suspend Appellant., 2015

Scholarly Lectures/Writings

  • Experts in federal law are warning the White House against naming acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli to replace Kevin McAleenan as head of the Department of Homeland Security because it would violate U.S. law and the Constitution.  Cuccinelli is a Republican politician said to be on President Trump’s short list for McAleenan’s job. However, legal scholars and lawyers say there is no legal means by which he could become acting secretary. What's more, they also believe the Trump administration overreached in July by inserting him at a Homeland Security agency., Interviewed by Anna Giaritelli (10.18.19), Attorneys say Trump would break law by appointing Ken Cuccinelli as DHS chief, Washington Examiner, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The White House defended its decision to hold a naturalization ceremony with President Trump amid the Republican National Convention Tuesday night as an "official" event that the Republican National Committee decided to pick up. “The President held a naturalization ceremony which was an official White House event,” a White House official wrote in an email to the Washington Examiner Thursday. “The White House publicized the content of the event on a public website that same afternoon and the campaign decided to use the publicly available content for campaign purposes. There was no violation of law.”, Interviewed by Anna Giaritelli (8.28.20), White House: Trump naturalization ceremony an official event “campaign decided to use”, Washington Examiner, Federal Employees, 2020
  • Two Philadelphia-area congresswomen are asking the head of the Pennsylvania National Guard to address allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation at the Horsham Air Guard Station following an Inquirer investigation last month. U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a former Air Force officer and founder of the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Caucus, and U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, whose district includes the base, wrote in a Friday letter to Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli that they were troubled by the allegations in the article and those made by two former employees on the base who have reached out to them. “Despite its different structure, the National Guard is not immune from the cultural challenges facing our military, especially when it comes to sexual harassment, misconduct, and retaliation,” Houlahan and Dean wrote to Carrelli, who as adjutant general is responsible for supervision of the state’s Army and Air National Guard units., Interviewed by Bill Bender (8.24.20), Congresswomen Ask PA. National Guard to Look into Sexual Harassment, Retalization Complaints at Horsham Base, Philadelphia Inquirer, Federal Employees, 2020
  • Two top Homeland Security Department officials are not legally eligible to serve in their current positions, according to a watchdog agency in the legislative branch.   A decision released by the Government Accountability Office on Friday said acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, who were appointed to their roles under the Vacancies Reform Act, "were named by reference to an invalid order of succession." The GAO, which noted that it has not "reviewed the legality of other actions taken by these officials," said the matter has been referred to the DHS inspector general for review., Interviewed by Anna Giaritelli (8.14.20), Watchdog agency: Top DHS officials not eligible to serve in current roles, Washington Examiner, Federal Employees, 2020
  • It was the spring of 2016, and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard had announced that it was hiring a sexual assault response coordinator at its Horsham base. The base is near Bustin’s home in Jenkintown, and she was more than qualified. She served in the Navy for more than 20 years, and had recently been commended for her work handling sexual assault cases for the Coast Guard in Cape May. “I thought it would be a great place to work,” Bustin said of the job, a federally mandated position. But Bustin, 56, who grew up in Philadelphia’s Kensington section, said she soon discovered that working with the commanders in the 111th Attack Wing was like going back to an era where Top Gun-style chauvinism is encouraged, sexual harassment and discrimination are rampant, and #MeToo has never happened. Few women on the air base have spoken out — until now., Interviewed by Bill Bender (7.28.20), Rape jokes, vindictive culture in ‘old boys club’ at Horsham’s Air National Guard Station, Philadelphia Inquirer, Federal Employees, 2020
  • The most notable legal rulings for federal employees this year came in the form of two pro-employee U.S. Supreme Court decisions. But there are other reasons to cheer as well.  In Babb v. Wilkie, the Supreme Court reviewed the provision of the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act applicable to federal employees—29 U.S.C. § 633a(a)—and ruled in favor of the employee. The Supreme Court clarified that agencies can be liable for age discrimination if it was a cause for the adverse action at issue, as opposed to the previous understanding that age must be the sole or primary cause of the adverse treatment (in other words, federal employees previously had to show that “but-for” age, the bad action would not have occurred). The higher “but-for” causation standard remains applicable to the private sector, but the Supreme Court finally clarified that the private sector law is not applicable to federal employees. The court also held that a federal employee who can establish that their age was the “but-for” cause of their agency’s adverse decision can obtain relief including compensatory damages, which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has long held was precluded by the provision. This will go a long way toward making victims of age discrimination whole, and forcing agencies to take age discrimination as seriously as discrimination based on other protected classes such as race, sex, and disability discrimination., Author (7.10.20), Recent Legal Developments Are Good News for Feds, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2020
  • Rapid-fire changes in the ranks of big agency inspectors general by the Trump White House have good government and oversight groups rattled. And there’s still no Senate-confirmed IG for the pandemic relief oversight. Could all of this have a chilling effect on the willingness of other agencies to issue unflattering reports? And for some perspective, Federal Drive with Tom Temin turned to the founding partner of the Federal Practice Group, Debra D’Agostino., Interviewed by Tom Temin (5.28.20), Inspectors general on shaky ground after fast dismissals, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2020
  • “I said get rid of that son of a bitch,” President Richard Nixon, later caught on tape, said of Ernie Fitzgerald, who had just won his job back from the Civil Service Commission. Nixon explained, “the point was not that he was complaining about the overruns, but that he was doing it in public . . . And not, and frankly, not taking orders.” Fitzgerald had testified before Congress that the cost of a fleet of 120 Lockheed C-5As had ballooned from $3 billion to nearly $5 billion, defying his supervisors’ direction to glass over the facts. Flash forward to last week, when two days after the Senate voted not to remove President Donald Trump from office, security escorted Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (and his twin brother) out of the White House. Although the National Security Council alleged that Vindman was reassigned months before his assignment was set to end pursuant to reorganization, President Trump tweeted that Vindman “had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information.” Trump further tweeted that Vindman, “was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior.”, Author (2.13.20), Whistleblower retaliation: Wrong when Nixon did it, wrong now, and — fingers crossed — wrong tomorrow, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2020
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board hit a historic three-year anniversary this month, but it’s not necessarily the good kind. The three-member board has lacked a quorum since January 2017, and it’s had no members since last March. Petitions for review, which federal employees and agencies can file when they disagree with an initial decision from an administrative judge, have piled up over the last three years. As of the end of 2019, the backlog of pending appeals sat at 2,529 cases, according to the MSPB., Interviewed by Nicole Ogrysko (1.24.20), Lack of quorum hits 3-year mark at MSPB, with no clear end in sight, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2020
  • Last summer the off-color postings on Facebook by a group of Border Patrol agents caused an uproar. A review by the agency recommended seven of them be fired. But four of the seven are still on the job. Many others who should have received no-pay suspensions got reprimands instead. With analysis of what’s going on, Federal Drive with Tom Temin turned to federal employment attorney Debra D’Agostino., Interviewed by Tom Temin (11.22.20), 4 of 7 border patrol agents recommended for firing after Facebook posts still on the job, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2020
  • The resignation of Kevin McAleenan has acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has brought up the question of acting officials and the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. The law places restrictions on how a president can fill openings temporarily. The Trump administration might be running afoul of that law. Attorney Debra D’Agostino of the Federal Practice Group joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin for an analysis., Interviewed by Tom Temin (11.1.19), Supreme Court Will Consider Whether Consumer Bureau’s Structure Is Constitutional, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2019
  • he Supreme Court has announced that it will consider the constitutionality of the consumer protection bureau established after the 2008 financial crisis that many Republicans have since tried to undermine. California-based Seila Law LLC argues the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gives the director too much authority since the president has limited ability to remove the individual from office, unlike other independent agencies that have a board. The firm says this violates the separation of powers established in the U.S. Constitution. Upon agreeing to take the case on Friday, the high court asked each side to consider if the bureau itself can remain intact even if its leadership structure is ruled unconstitutional. , Interviewed by Courtney Buble (10.22.19), Supreme Court Will Consider Whether Consumer Bureau’s Structure Is Constitutional, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The comparator employee provisions in the Office of Personnel Management’s proposed regulations implementing President Trump’s civil service reform Executive Order 13839 would change the standard for comparator employees, fanning the flames of the debate over who qualifies as similarly situated, experts told cyberFEDS® in exclusive interviews. OPM is proposing to adopt the narrow “Miskill test,” under which an agency must provide “proof that the proffered comparator was in the same work unit, with the same supervisor, and was subjected to the same standards governing discipline.” Miskill, AFGE Local 1923 v. Social Security Administration, 117 LRP 28910 (Fed. Cir. 2017)., Interviewed by Anjali Patel (10.8.19), OPM’S PROPOSED RULES ON COMPARATOR EMPLOYEE STANDARD RAISE, cyberFeds, Federal Employees, 2019
  • ederal employees being asked to disobey congressional mandates related to an impeachment inquiry into President Trump will have difficult decisions to make as they chart a path forward, legal experts say, but will have certain protections available to them.  The State Department on Tuesday refused to make U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland available for a scheduled deposition related to Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, and House Democrats now say they will issue a subpoena to demand his testimony. If the administration continues to block him and other employees from complying with Congress, it could put individuals in a precarious legal position. Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, sent a letter to House leaders Tuesday afternoon informing Congress the administration will not comply with any element of the probe. , Interviewed by Eric Katz (10.18.20), How Trump's Defiance of Impeachment Probe Could Leave Federal Employees Criminally Liable, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • Former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok’s lawsuit accusing the Justice Department of improperly firing him in 2018 highlights a gray area in the Hatch Act because there is no set policy on the use of government-issued phones., Interviewed by Courtney Buble (8.9.19), Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s Lawsuit Highlights a Gray Area in the Hatch Act, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • he whistleblower who revealed the now infamous call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is vulnerable to retaliation due to the unique laws that govern intelligence community whistleblowers, according to experts.  The whistleblower filed a complaint following the July phone call in which President Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival and presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son. But as an intelligence community employee, the individual has limited protection, said Debra D’Agostino, founding partner of the Federal Practice Group. This is because “the patchwork of laws that protect whistleblowers in the IC are significantly less powerful” than those for other federal employees. , Interviewed by Courtney Buble (10.3.19), Whistleblower is Vulnerable to Retaliation Due to Limited Intelligence Community Protections, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • President Donald Trump and his GOP allies are making groundless accusations that a whistleblower complaint by a CIA officer was improperly filed because it was not based on first-hand knowledge. In tweets and public statements, they assert that a whistleblower cannot submit a complaint if it relies on so-called hearsay or second-hand information. They also suggest nefarious behavior — “deep state,” as one White House adviser put it — in the circumstances surrounding the form for the complaint, which alleged that Trump abused his office in pressing for a Ukrainian investigation of Democratic rival Joe Biden., Author (9.27.19), AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s fiction about whistleblower complaint, Associated Press, Federal Employees, 2019
  • House Democrats took their first concrete steps in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump on Friday, issuing subpoenas demanding documents from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and scheduling legal depositions for other State Department officials. At the end of a stormy week of revelation and recrimination, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi framed the impeachment inquiry as a somber moment for a divided nation., Interviewed (9.27.19), Subpoenas mark first concrete steps for Trump impeachment, Associated Press, Federal Employees, 2019
  • Since June, when the USDA announced that it would be moving both the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), its two research agencies, to Kansas City, the USDA has been sliding downhill in this uphill battle. In August, the USDA’s own the inspector general concluded the Agency may have violated federal rules in funding the transfers without receiving the proper budgetary authority or issuing proper notice to Congress. Now, with two-thirds of the 400 affected staff saying that they would face termination from the agency rather than relocate, USDA extended the deadline for some employees to accept the reassignment to September 27th and cut the buyout amount for employees who declined the reassignment from $25,000 to $10,000, citing the unexpected volume of interested employees. , Author (9.11.19), Déjà vu for USDA?, Fedsmith, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The Hatch Act restricts federal employees from taking part in political activity, defined as any activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, partisan political group, or candidate in a partisan race. Employees who must comply with the Hatch Act include any individual (other than the President and the Vice President) employed or holding office in "an executive agency other than the Government Accountability Office"; or in "a position within the competitive service which is not in an executive agency." , Author (8.15.19), Complying with the Hatch Act Isn’t That Difficult, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • It hasn’t been a good week for federal employee unions. A federal appeals judge overturned a lower court ruling that nullified Trump administration executive orders on official time, collective bargaining and other workplace matters. That means for now, the orders are in effect., Debra D'Agostino talks with Federal News Network about the rough week the federal employee unions had, Labor unions representing federal employees had a rough week, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2019
  • Customs and Border Protection border patrol agents need to be held accountable for making jokes about the death of migrants, and racist and sexist comments, among other outrageous comments, in a Facebook group for current and former CBP agents., Author, What consequences border agents could face after Facebook comments, Federal News Radio, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The Hatch Act restricts federal employees from taking part in political activity, defined as any activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, partisan political group, or candidate in a partisan race. Employees who must comply with the Hatch Act include any individual (other than the President and the Vice President) employed or holding office in "an executive agency other than the Government Accountability Office"; or in "a position within the competitive service which is not in an executive agency." , Debra D'Agostino writes an article on what feds should know about the Hatch Act, Complying with the Hatch Act Isn’t That Difficult, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • Former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok’s lawsuit accusing the Justice Department of improperly firing him in 2018 highlights a gray area in the Hatch Act because there is no set policy on the use of government-issued phones. Debra D'Agostino raised a “unique” aspect of this case, which is that “Strzok was left with no administrative remedy” to his dismissal. According to theAdministrative Procedures Act, federal employees must go through the appeal avenues available within their departments or agencies before taking their cases to outside courts., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Government Executive about the Hatch Act and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s Lawsuit Highlights a Gray Area in the Hatch Act, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • All eyes are on Customs and Border Protection to make sure it holds accountable the border patrol agents who made jokes about the death of migrants, and racist and sexist comments, among other outrageous comments, in a Facebook group for current and former CBP agents. CBP announced its Office of Inspector General opened an investigation, which is usually the first step an agency takes before proposing discipline., Debra D'Agostino writes a column about the Facebook controversy with border agents, What consequences border agents could face after Facebook comments, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The Environmental Protection Agency sent out a tweet over its official twitter account and could be considered a violation of the Hatch Act. Office of Special Count is set to investigate but Debra D'Agostino thinks while at the line did not cross it. If there is any discipline it would probably be just a slap on the wrist., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Federal News Radio on whether a tweet violated the Hatch Act, Did this EPA tweet violate Hatch Act? OSC says it’ll investigate, Federal News Radio, Federal Employees, Whistleblowers, 2018
  • A federal appeals court in Washington on Tuesday dealt a blow to labor unions representing federal workers in their battle with the Trump administration over get-tough workplace rules. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reverses a ruling last year that struck down key provisions in three executive orders signed by President Trump that rolled back civil service protections, making it easier to fire employees and weaken their union representation. Debra D'Agostino feels the rulings have been very anti-union., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Washington Post on latest in union challenges, In win for Trump administration, appeals court stymies union challenge to civil service restrictions, Washington Post, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The provisions of three executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in May 2018 that target the collective bargaining negotiations between agencies and federal unions now have a path to go back into effect, under a July 16 ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. According to Debra D'Agostino this means that the enjoined provisions will be in effect, despite their obvious conflict with federal statute., Debra D'Agostino discusses the latest in the anti-union orders with Federal Times, Trump’s anti-union orders could be reinstated, Federal Times, Federal Employees, 2019
  • In late June, the Supreme Court issued decisions in two cases concerning the limits of executive agencies’ authority. While the Court maintained the status quo for now, both cases demonstrate the Court’s willingness to chip away at long-standing doctrines allowing executive agencies to implement and enforce their own rules and regulations, and to be afforded deference by courts for their interpretations of their own rules and regulations. The Court also signaled its view that agencies’ authority is perhaps too expansive and is ripe to be reigned in, despite not clearly articulating how that should be accomplished. , Debra D'Agostino pens an article about what feds should know about two recent Supreme Court rulings, What Feds Should Know About Two Recent Supreme Court Rulings, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The Trump administration is getting pushback on its controversial proposal to build a new military service based on the space domain, but not for the reason most may think. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and the nation’s largest federal employee union expressed concerns about how workers will be classified and what rights they will have as employees of the Space Force. Debra D'Agostino's take is the administration is basically trying to create another class of federal employee that would have even less rights than a title 10 employee., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Federal News Network about employee rights and the Space Force, Smith, federal union pan Space Force for proposed employee rights, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2019
  • A senior Secret Service agent whose job is literally to take a would-be assassin’s bullet for the president defiantly told colleagues and friends just a few weeks before the 2016 election that she’d refuse to do any such thing for Trump. he agent’s life has been irrevocably changed by her public remarks about Trump. But Kerry O’Grady, the Secret Service agent in question, has emerged from the entire spectacle virtually unscathed financially despite the black mark on her law enforcement reputation. Debra D'Agostino suggested that O’Grady may have had unrelated legal grievances with the Secret Service that allowed her to remain at the agency on paid or unpaid leave for roughly a year and a half after her October 2017 settlement., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Real Clear Politics about a Secret Service Agent who left with her benefits, Anti-Trump Secret Service Agent Leaving With Pay, Pension, Real Clear Politics, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The Trump administration is pushing the limits of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which sets guidelines for filling vacant roles in government. Many Iowans are at least somewhat aware of the constitutional questions surrounding Matt Whitaker’s appointment as acting U.S. attorney general. Legal scholars cautioned that because Whitaker never had been through Senate confirmation for a Cabinet position, he was not legally eligible to fill the acting role., Debra D'Agostino talks the Federal Vacancies Reform Act with The Gazette, U.S. Senate must safeguard its authority, The Gazette, Federal Employees, 2019
  • It’s the law. Specifically, 5 U.S.C. §7311, specifies that federal employees may not participate in a strike, assert the right to strike, or even belong to a union that “asserts the right to strike against the government of the United States.” Driving the point home, 18 U.S.C. §1918 makes it a felony to strike against the United States or belong to a union that asserts the right to strike against the United States. What’s more, the Office of Personnel Management can declare an individual who participates in a strike unsuitable for federal employment. Forever., Debra D'Agostino authors a column on why feds do not strike, Why Feds Don't Strike, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says she will introduce emergency legislation that she says would allow federal employees who live in D.C. and who have been working without pay during the partial government shutdown to file for unemployment benefits. Bowser’s announcement, which came during a news conference Tuesday, could trigger a legal showdown with the U.S. Labor Department, which has maintained that only furloughed federal workers are eligible to sign up for employment benefits. Debra D'Agostino said she didn’t think it was likely the federal government would haul D.C. or California into court over the matter, not least because of the optics., Debra D'Agostino speaks with WTOP on feds accepting unemployment, DC mayor bucks fed gov’t with bill to offer ‘essential’ workers unemployment, WTOP, Federal Employees, 2019
  • During the government furlough many questions came up for federal employees. For those who qualify for unemployment benefits and are hoping to get some money to help tide them over during the partial government shutdown, there’s one thing to consider: the money has to be paid back. In the past week, some federal employees — including those still on the job but not getting paid — have found they’re having to scrape together money for essential goods, from food to gas money. Now, many who never thought they’d have to are applying for unemployment benefits. Debra D’Agostino said it may surprise workers to learn who is qualified and who is not. Through one of those bizarre quirks, those folks who actually are working who are not getting paid are not entitled to unemployment., Debra D'Agostino speaks with WTOP about which federal workers qualify for unemployment, Which Federal workers affected by the shutdown qualify for unemployment, WTOP, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The furlough made many federal employees think about getting side jobs to supplement their incomes. The problem? Many needed to ask permission to take an outside job and as Debra D'Agostino noted if you’re furloughed, your boss is furloughed too, so you can’t get permission if you’re required to have permission. She noted she has had several clients disciplined and even removed from federal service for failing to get prior approval for outside employment. It’s something everyone should take seriously., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Federal News Network about feds seeking side employment, Furloughed with nowhere to go, feds give ‘gig economy’ a shot, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2019
  • In an unusual step during an unusual government shutdown, the State Department on Thursday notified thousands of furloughed employees that it had freed up some existing funds so that the idled staff must report back, in most cases, on Jan. 22. In another unusual twist, the staff will be paid for the work they do once they return. “As a national security agency, it is imperative that the Department of State carries out its mission,” wrote Bill Todd, deputy undersecretary for management, in a memo. “We are best positioned to do so with fully staffed embassies, consulates, and domestic offices. ... All State Department direct-hire employees and State Department locally employed staff are expected to report to work on their first work day in Pay Period., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Government Executive about State Department finding funding to keep furloughed employees on board, State Department Defends Unusual Recall of Furloughed Staffers, With Pay, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2019
  • The Office of the Special Council was forced to quickly refine a policy about the legality of talking about impeachment and repeating political slogans in the office after it raised multiple inquires from federal workers and interest groups. The Hatch Act prohibits federal workers from engaging in political activity while on duty during an election period and from using their official authority to influence or interfere with elections. Debra D'Agostino said there is little precedence for the kind of guidance OSC issued. She went on to say to even interpret concepts like advocating for impeachment or even saying ‘#resist’ as being partisan political activity in a partisan election is so far away from any prior Hatch case law., Debra D'Agostino is interviewed by Federal News Network about the Hatch Act, OSC forced to refine policy that seemed to ban talking about impeachment on the job, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2018
  • Although the Trump administration has taken several steps to try to reduce the power of federal employee unions in recent weeks, advocates and observers argue that the most critical piece of the White House’s workforce agenda is something President Trump has not done. In May, Trump signed three executive orders that make it easier to fire federal employees and reduce the influence of federal employee unions. One of the orders seemingly opens the door to agencies unilaterally implementing new collective bargaining agreements—without union approval—if they deem union representatives to be stalling or otherwise negotiating in bad faith., Debra D'Agostino talks with Government Executive about recent EO and impact on Unions, The Empty Chair at the Heart of the White House’s War on Unions, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2018
  • Debra D’Agostino feels nothing seems flat out contrary to case law, but noting that agencies will be unable to resolve cases quickly and efficiently without the option to offer clean records. The EO states that agencies “shall not agree to erase, remove, alter, or withhold from another agency any information about a civilian employee’s performance or conduct in that employee’s official personnel records” to resolve formal or informal complaints or settle administrative challenges to adverse personnel actions., Debra D'Agostino speaks with CyberFeds about the latest EO Promoting Accountability and Streamlining Removal Procedure, NEW EO WILL LIKELY INCREASE AGENCY CASELOAD, PROLONG LITIGATION, EXPERTS SAY, cyberFeds, Federal Employees, 2018
  • Debra D'Agostino talks with Tom Temin of Federal Drive about civil service reform ideas that will include longer probation, shorter appeal deadlines, arbitrary pay for performance.  They’ve already hit some federal employees and might be headed your way. , Debra D'Agostino is interviewed by Federal News Network about some bad civil service reform, Debra D’Agostino: Time to end wrongheaded approach to civil service reform, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2018
  • While the Trump administration touts salary freezes and reduced retirement benefits for federal workers (to attract new talent?), at last week’s Merit Systems Protection Board Summit, MSPB Vice Chairman Mark Robbins discussed some other proposed civil service reforms. Spoiler alert: They won’t help employees. Some proposals are common sense, like excluding shutdown-created furloughs from the list of appealable adverse personnel actions (federal employees gained little from appealing furloughs during previous shutdowns). But others double down on the federal government’s bad management practices., Debra D'Agostino pens a column on some potential bad Civil Service Reform, Let’s Talk About Some Bad Ideas for Civil Service Reform, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2018
  • The whistleblower rights of employees in the Intelligence Community are very limited as compared to those of federal employees in the competitive service. IC employees are specifically excluded from coverage under the Whistleblower Protection Act and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which protect most civil servants from retaliation and provide avenues for remedy. In part, this is because in most cases, the information an IC employee would disclose is classified, and thus the information cannot legally be released to the public. However, this justification is not entirely logical because IC employees are prohibited even from disclosing unclassified information. Instead, they must follow strict procedures for any disclosure., Debra D'Agostino writes a column for Government Executive about the limited protections Whistleblowers have, Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Are On Thin Ice, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2018
  • While the current administration is trying to take steps to curtail what it is calling information leaks, “a lot of meaningful and legal whistleblowing is still happening,” so agencies must take extra care to avoid retaliation according to Debra D'Agostino. She went to note, the administration seems to be pushing through a significant number of removals, especially at agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs, and D’Agostino said she has seen agencies taking “a more brazen approach” to pursuing discipline against individuals who have made protected disclosures. , Debra D'Agostino discusses disciplinary actions involving possible whistleblower disclosures with cyberFeds, Scrutinize disciplinary actions involving possible whistleblower , cyberFeds, Federal Employees, Whistleblowers, 2018
  •   A new study shows that sexual harassment is commonplace in federal offices. One in 5 women at large agencies say they have experienced some form of inappropriate behavior from a co-worker or supervisor. Nearly 9 percent of male employees report similar problems. Once employees file complaints, their cases drag on in what lawyers and federal officials describe as an overburdened, underfunded system that has not kept pace with other workplaces, even though the government is the country’s largest employer. “The biggest problem is that it takes way too long to get relief,” said Chai Feldblum, who serves on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which adjudicates workplace-discrimination claims in the government and at private companies. “In harassment cases, the delay can be devastating.”  [Female senators demand rule changes to address sexual harassment in Congress]It took seven years for Christy McCormick, a former trial lawyer at the Justice Department, to win a ruling from the EEOC confirming she was harassed by two male supervisors during a year-long detail to Baghdad in 2009 to train Iraqi law enforcement officials on legal issues.Christy McCormick won a ruling from the EEOC confirming she was harassed by two male supervisors. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post) The commission concluded last year that McCormick was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her gender. It also found that she was denied an extension of her assignment and given a negative performance review because she complained. Ten months later, her attorney, Robert Seldon, is still negotiating with the agency over back pay and damages. “I almost gave up numerous times,” said McCormick, who now serves on the bipartisan U.S. Election Assistance Commission. “They push you so hard to give up.”   The Justice Department declined to comment. Her former managers still work in senior federal law enforcement jobs, according to government websites. The government conducted the first study of sexual harassment in 1981, breaking ground in workplace conduct and prompting training and prevention policies. The Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent office that studies long-term trends in the federal workforce, revisited its findings in a new survey that finds the highest rates of harassment at the Navy, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. Just 8 percent of the surveyed employees believe that corrective action was taken against their harassers. The study concludes that federal agencies “must improve their education of employees about their responsibilities and rights regarding workplace conduct and hold employees who commit sexual harassment accountable for their misconduct.”   The study did show improvement from the last time the board examined the problem, in 1994. At that time, more than 40 percent of women and nearly 20 percent of men said they dealt with unwelcome sexual behavior. Federal workers get 45 days to file a grievance, compared with 300 days for private-sector employees in most states. If government workers prevail — either in federal court or through the EEOC process — their damages are capped at $300,000. But there’s no limit on settlements with private companies, and anti-discrimination laws in many states allow private-sector employees to sue in court systems that don’t cap damages. In the internal EEOC system, set up to keep cases out of the federal courts, it can take years to come to a resolution.[Why has Congress stalled on fixing its sexual misconduct issue?]  Some employees say they received poor performance reviews or were denied promotions after filing grievances, while their alleged harassers retired or seemed to escape discipline. Before they can sue, federal workers must undergo a fuller, more time-consuming administrative process, which includes the EEOC, where staffing has dwindled and funding has stagnated in recent years. While the commission says about half of discrimination complaints are resolved within three months, it took an average of 1,300 days — about 3½ years — to resolve the rest through the EEOC in fiscal 2017, the commission said. “They tell federal employees there’s a process,” said Josh Bowers, a lawyer who specializes in federal discrimination cases. “It’s collapsed. Six years later, my clients are asking, ‘Josh, what happened?’ ”The commission can only recommend that a harasser be disciplined or fired. It cannot order action, and agencies are not required to report whether they took any.   EEOC decisions and settlements with agencies are confidential, naming neither victims nor harassers. The delays also can fail managers who are unfairly accused of harassment. “When you have a claim that was brought and it doesn’t have merit, it is painfully unfair to the manager” to drag out these cases, said Gary Gilbert, a former EEOC chief administrative judge. Often, employees say their careers falter, while those of their alleged harassers seem to flourish.[Justice Dept. watchdog calls handling of sexual harassment complaints a ‘systemic’ problem]The nuclear engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern that her case could hinder future employment, filed a complaint against her supervisor at the Energy Department’s Office of Enterprise Assessments in 2016, according to her complaint. She alleged that he stalked her and made inappropriate comments about the way she dressed.   Shortly afterward, the supervisor confronted her in the office parking lot and threatened her job, the engineer said in an interview. She was urged to take a temporary position in another office while the case was investigated, she said, and was upset when the supervisor was selected to attend a respected training program that prepares managers for promotion to senior executive, documents show. Within a month, she reached a confidential settlement with the department, her attorney, Joseph Kaplan, said. “Even if you do get resolution, there is no accountability when it comes to the harasser,” the engineer said. Energy spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said she could not discuss a personnel matter.A nuclear engineer at the Office of Enterprise Assessment says her supervisor stalked her and made inappropriate comments about her clothing. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post) In 17 investigations at offices across the government since the beginning of 2015, federal inspectors general found that offenders often were not disciplined but retired, resigned or continued working during the investigations.   Acting EEOC chair Victoria Lipnic said the “single biggest concern” of all employees filing grievances is retaliation, particularly in sexual harassment cases. “The potential for retaliation is big.” Government officials said it is not always apparent when they take action against a harasser because they are forbidden from publicly disclosing disciplinary measures. Penalties can include reprimands, written warnings, suspensions and dismissals — sanctions that are not always visible to employees. Often, accusers see their alleged harassers move up the ranks, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, said Steven Walker, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for human resources. “Misconduct is often visible, but disciplinary action is not, for privacy reasons,” he said. “People don’t see suspensions or letters of reprimand, but they do see promotion lists. They think nothing happens. Because of privacy issues, we can’t advertise disciplinary actions.” In February, the agency began issuing quarterly reports on misconduct and disciplinary actions taken against employees, to avoid the perception that nothing is being done. Harassment allegations also can have serious repercussions for the accused. Retired Army officer Lionel Deschaine said in an interview that his career was ruined when a female intelligence officer filed a harassment complaint against him in 2011 alleging that he made comments about her breasts and legs and repeatedly told her he fantasized about having sex with her. Deschaine was fired, and the case was settled in 2014. He said it “ended my professional career,” five years shy of retirement from the agency. The agency “made it appear that I was totally a guilty person in all of this,” but the woman “played a part,” he said. Looking back on the case, he said, “the process was fair. The outcome was not.” The woman asked that her name and the name of her agency be withheld to protect her privacy and because it could hurt her future job prospects. Nina Ren, the lawyer representing the five employees at ICE’s international operations division, said she is still waiting for a response from the agency, 13 months after four women and a male colleague filed nearly identical complaints against their unit chief and another supervisor. Their complaints say the unit chief had a history of making insulting and lewd comments, including several about the president, and made them view a nude photo of a female bodybuilder. “I was so embarrassed, but I had to take it,” Norma Jordan, one of the workers who complained, said in an interview. Following their complaints, all the employees said they received poor performance reviews. Jordan said she was ordered to sort through 100 30-pound boxes in a file room to locate a file she knew was not there. ICE officials declined to comment because the case is pending but said the agency “maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior.” Of 19 Cabinet and two intelligence agencies The Washington Post asked to provide data on settlements and discipline for alleged sexual harassers since the beginning of 2014, just four — Veterans Affairs, Labor, State and Housing and Urban Development — provided full or partial responses. Alice Crites contributed to this report.Read more:Conn. congresswoman kept aide on staff for 3 months after learning of threat allegationHow Congress plays by different rules on sexual harassment and misconductSome men disagree on what amounts to sexual harassment or assault  69 Comments The Trailer newsletter News and insight on political campaigns around the country, from David Weigel. 435 districts. 50 states. Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings. By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy Lisa ReinLisa Rein covers federal agencies and the management of government in the Trump adminstration. At The Washington Post, she has written about the federal workforce; state politics and government in Annapolis, and in Richmond; local government in Fairfax County, Va. and the redevelopment of Washington and its neighborhoods. Follow       PAID PROMOTED STORIES    Savvy Americans Are Opening High Yield Savings AccountsYahoo Search Rheumatoid Arthritis: 15 Do's and Don'ts for WomenHealthCentral 20 of the Democratic Presidential Candidates and Their Significant OthersRanker What Exactly is Plaque Psoriasis? - Search for Early Signs of Plaque PsoriasisYahoo! Search               [Photos] Raquel Welch is Almost 80, This Is Her NowJOL [Photos] Teen Offers to Carry Man's Groceries for Food, Had No Idea Who He Was ApproachingFinance 101Recommended by          Most Read Politics 1Analysis Trump finds himself on his heels and fumbling at G-7   2Mixed signals, reversals cloud second day of G-7 summit   3Iran’s Zarif makes surprise trip to G-7, catching Trump off-guard   4Former congressman Joe Walsh announces primary challenge against Trump   5Trump admits to having ‘second thoughts’ — a scramble ensues to explain what he meant    Latest episode‘Publishing is still a business that is owned by white men’: Three women on race and genreListen18:29Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.     Local politics email alerts Important breaking news alerts about D.C.-area politicians and governments.      washingtonpost.com© 1996-2019 The Washington Post  HelpPolicies and StandardsTerms of ServicePrivacy PolicyPrint Products Terms of SaleDigital Products Terms of SaleSubmissions and Discussion PolicyRSS Terms of ServiceAd ChoicesContact Us  The federal government once led the way in addressing sexual harassment in its ranks. But it now lags behind the private sector as the problem gains prominence in the #MeToo era, according to federal officials and employment lawyers. A new study shows that sexual harassment is commonplace in federal offices.          , Client of Debra D'Agostino was centerpiece of Washington Post story, Justice in the #MeToo era is not nearly as swift for federal employees, Washington Post, Federal Employees, 2018
  • The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Act was signed into law to make it easier to fire employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Top executives were the primary targets but a year into the law being signed it is feared low-level staffers have been the primary targets. According to Debra D'Agostino when federal agencies do try to remove an employee, they almost always succeed. In the past five years, the MSPB has reversed just 4 percent of the cases it reviewed, according to the board’s reports. The VA has a worse record: It loses at the MSPB 16 percent of the time.   , Debra D'Agostino is interviewed by Politico concerning the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Act, Trump's VA is Purging Civil Servants, Politico, Federal Employees, 2018
  • Jared Kushner's issues with his security clearance, like many others, got caught in the backlog. But it wasn’t government bureaucracy that doomed his top-secret clearance. If fact, he was treated better than other federal employees and contractors ensnared by the clearance process. According to Debra D'Agostino what seems to differ about Kushner’s case is that he was allowed to access top-secret information even though he only had an interim clearance, and now that his access to that top-secret information has been denied, he’s still employed even though his job requires access to that information., Washington Post interviews Debra D'Agostino concerning problems with the security clearance process and nepotism, Nepotism aside, Kushner is part of a big club when it comes to security clearance problems, Washington Post, Federal Employees, Security Clearance, 2018
  • At the end of Michaela Myers three-month season in Oregon, she had enough of sexual harassment. She reported the harassment to the United States Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service’s parent agency. In October, she provided a sworn statement to a USDA investigator detailing all the allegations. At first, Myers found the Human Resource department’s response encouraging. She was optimistic action would be taken. But two months later, the Forest Service sent her a letter that said the investigation was complete, no misconduct had been found, and the case was closed., Debra D'Agostino is interviewed by PBS NewsHour about sexual harassment at the U.S. Forest Service, They reported sexual harassment. Then the retaliation began, PBS NewsHour, Federal Employees, U.S. Forest Service, 2018
  • At VA, the cost of an expedited process is a drastic hit on due process safeguards, especially for the department’s senior executives. By striking at workplace rights, the new law also undermines civil service protections that are designed to shield the public, not just staffers, from a politicized workforce. The law sets a dangerous precedent for the civil service by denying VA senior executives the right to appeal adverse personnel actions to the quasi-judicial Merit Systems Protection Board, as is common for federal employees. Instead, the department’s senior execs are relegated to an in-house process that essentially allows the politically appointed secretary, through designees, to act as prosecutor, judge and appellate court., Washington Post interviews Debra D'Agostino on using new VA firing practices at other federal agencies, Trump’s plan to use VA firing practices at other agencies threatens civil service workers — and the public, Washington Post, Federal Employees, 2018
  • It’s long been the case that when an agency has reasonable cause to suspect that a federal employee has committed a crime … for which imprisonment could be a sentence … then the agency can indefinitely suspend you said Debra D'Agostino. A convicted federal employee sits in “indefinite suspension status” while criminal proceedings continue. If he or she is cleared, the employee will typically go back to work. Though D’Agostino said the statute determining an agency’s right to place federal employees on indefinite suspension is relatively clear, the situation becomes more complicated if an employee has been improperly indicted. “If the person is wrongly arrested, is wrongly indicted [or] is cleared completely, they still don’t get back pay,” she said. “The government has the right to not pay them while the criminal action is proceeding, even if the whole thing is a false charge.”, Debra D'Agostino is interviewed by Federal News Radio about indefinite suspensions, Recent court decision reminds agencies they can put indicted employees on indefinite suspension, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2018
  • It is Debra D'Agostino's expectation that Trump is not going to nominate anyone to fill one of those MSPB slots to give the board a quorum. This administration has not demonstrated its interest in protection of civil service rights. The board is all about enforcement of the Civil Service Reform Act, and the general feeling amongst attorneys who work with the MSPB is the administration [is] not interested in that act being enforced., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Federal News Network the impact of MSPB not having a quorum, MSPB has never been without a quorum for this long, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2018
  • Debra D’Agostino said the majority of the employees in these lower-level positions don’t have control over major decisions or policies that dictate how well VA is caring for and treating its veterans.The data doesn’t show that there’s any real change happening in VA and the adverse action reports don’t list employee names due to privacy reasons, VA said. But the reports also lack details about the specific charges related to each disciplinary action. She called the VA’s decision to exclude this information “odd,” but said she and other lawyers within her practice have often argued with federal agencies over these details when seeking information on other employees who have faced similar charges., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Federal News Radio on employee accountability at VA, What VA's now public adverse action reports don't say about employee accountability, Federal News Radio, Federal Employees, 2017
  • Nearly a year into his takeover of Washington, President Trump has made a significant down payment on his campaign pledge to shrink the federal bureaucracy, a shift long sought by conservatives that could eventually bring the workforce down to levels not seen in decades. The mood is different said Debra D'Agostino in October alone, the firm took on 30 new clients facing proposed removals — up from the usual one or two a month, she said. There's a feeling out there that they're not going to get as much pushback for trying to fire someone," she said., Debra D'Agostino speaks with Washington Post about Trump era and federal bureaucracy, How the Trump era is changing the federal bureaucracy, Washington Post, Federal Employees, 2017
  • Department of Veterans Affairs leadership insists that if it could just fire employees more easily, its performance would improve. No data suggests this is true, and as job security wanes, morale is waning with it. According to Debra D'Agostino the bottom line is that firing employees won’t solve the VA’s problems, and making it easier for the VA to fire employees hasn’t produced any results. Sunshine remains the best disinfectant., Debra D'Agostino authors column for Federal Times about VA mismanagement, Nothing to celebrate: New efforts do nothing to fix mismanagement at the VA , Federal Times, Federal Employees, 2017
  • The Trump administration is pushing the limits of an obscure federal law that restricts nominees from serving in federal positions before they’re approved by the Senate. According to Debra D'Agostino it seems the question is whether they are in fact acting in the position – not whether there is some piece of paper bequeathing them with an ‘acting’ title, as they may be de facto acting in the positions they have been nominated for. Quoting part of the Vacancies Act, she added, “If they are ‘performing that office’s duties,’ and have been nominated, this runs afoul of the very purpose of the [act].”, Debra D'Agostino speaks with Politic about Trump nominees working without approval, Trump nominees show up for work without waiting for Senate approval, Politico, Federal Employees, 2017
  • The Interior Department denied it did anything outside the normal order of business when it transferred a senior executive with a background in science to an accounting position, despite a high-profile claim of whistleblower retaliation from the employee.Debra D’Agostino said she expects Clement to prevail. While Interior will argue it has the right to reassign SES employees, she said, the government cannot do so with an “impermissible motive.”, Government Executive speaks with Debra D'Agostino about reassignments at Interior Department, The 'Chilling Effect' of Forced Reassignments at Trump's Interior Dept., Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2017
  • Debra D'Agostino discusses how do agency executives sort out public-spirited whistleblowers from mean-spirited leakers? And what rights do whistleblowers in the ultra-sensitive intelligence community have? , Federal News Radio interviews Debra D'Agostino on rights for whistleblowers in intelligence community, Debra D’Agostino: Rights for whistleblowers in intelligence community, Federal News Radio, Federal Employees, 2017
  • New presidential administrations get a break under the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act: an extra 90 days to fill top agency jobs in addition to the 210-day maximum for which acting officials can fill in. But according to the latest tracker by The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service, Trump has submitted no nominee for 396 of the key agency posts, has nominated 104 people and has had only 45 confirmed. According to Debra D'Agostino there is some uncertainty in what happens if the Senate just sits on a nomination. Justice Department guidance from the 1990s says that as long as a president has nominated someone, the time frame doesn’t matter, but that’s not actually written in the statute and she feels we’re getting into a gray zone., Government Executive Asks Debra D'Agostino her take on the Vacancies Act, Trump's Rows of Unfilled Agency Jobs Could Bump Up Against Vacancies Act, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2017
  • The misguided Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act isn’t going to fix what’s wrong with the department. According to Debra D'Agostino what Congress recently passed in the bipartisan Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act after its last try at reforming the VA’s civil service system, the Choice Act, was deemed unconstitutional. This new effort appears not to violate the Constitution—a low threshold—but it also is unlikely to improve the quality of care veterans receive or even significantly improve management at VA. , Debra D'Agostino writes a column outlining what VA really needs, What VA Really Needs, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2017
  • On the same day President Trump plunged the nation into crisis by sacking the FBI director, a court ruling demonstrated the importance of due process for federal employees being fired. As a political appointee, James B. Comey didn’t have the same protection as civil servants. If some in Congress get their way, those regular working folks, particularly in the Department of Veterans Affairs, would be almost as defenseless as he was., Debra D'Agostino discusses the need for due process for federal employees, Nation needs due process for feds that Comey didn’t get, Washington Post, Federal Employees, 2017
  • While Congress has yet to pass a budget, the Trump administration has drawn how it would like to see the federal government “reshaped,” and most anticipate that reductions in force (RIFs) will be a part of this shape shifting. Congress is supposed to pass a budget resolution by April 15, although it’s better known for passing continuing resolutions instead of meeting deadlines, and the budget at issue is for the fiscal year beginning on October 1. So, there is time before the RIF tsunami strikes, but like with any threatening forecast, preparation is key., Debra D'Agostino pens a column for The Hill about upcoming RIFs, Brace yourself, federal employees: 'Reductions in force' are coming, The Hill, Federal Employees, 2017
  • Twitter is no longer suing the Department of Homeland Security to stop it from demanding the identity of an anonymous user critical of President Donald Trump, after the agency withdrew its summons. Twitter is no longer suing the Department of Homeland Security to stop it from demanding the identity of an anonymous user critical of President Donald Trump, after the agency withdrew its summons. According to Twitter's complaint, filed in California on Thursday, a Customs and Border Protection agent faxed the company a summons in March asking for the "records regarding the twitter account @ALT_USCIS to include, User name, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses." Twitter's complaint said the officer had ordered the company to get records to a Washington, D.C.-based CBP office "by 11:45 A.M. on March 13, 2017—the day before the CBP Summons was faxed to Twitter.” But Twitter dropped the case a day after filing once "counsel for defendants from the Department of Justice" informed it CBP had "withdrawn the summons and that the summons no longer has any force or effect," according to an updated filing shared with Nextgov.» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.The company then voluntarily dismissed the claims. The original filing identified DHS and CBP, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, CBP Special Agent Stephen Caruso and CBP Special Agent Adam Hoffman as defendants. @ALT_USCIS, whose content is branded in its bio as "#altgov" and "not the views of DHS or USCIS," has amassed more than 152,000 followers and tweets messages often opposing that of the administration. Twitter's lawyers had argued this user, and all others, have the “right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech" under the First Amendment. "To the NEW [Make America Great Again] FOLKS: we never advocated for illegal immigration, we advocate for due process for anyone human! It is a right!" one Tweet reads.  @ALT_USCIS is one of many similar accounts spouting "resistance"-themed messages, which have proliferated since Trump took office, Twitter's lawyers noted. Others, including @alt_labor, referencing the Labor Department, and @blm_alt, referencing the Bureau of Land Management, “purport to be current or former employees of federal agencies, or others with special insights about the agencies, who provide views and commentary that is often vigorously opposed, resistant, or ‘alternative’ to the official actions and policies of the new administration.” CBP, which does not generally comment on pending litigation, declined requests to elaborate on its case. Esha Bhandari, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represents Twitter, noted in a statement that "speed with which the government buckled shows just how blatantly unconstitutional its demand was in the first place." Requesting the identity of anonymous social media users without any indication of criminal conduct is unprecedented, Debra D'Agostino, an employment attorney with the Federal Practice Group, told Nextgov in an interview. Though the Obama administration did request the identity of some users it suspected were dangerous, she said this is the first case she's heard of in which the user was simply critical of the administration. The same protections would apply even if the user weren't anonymous, and were using their full name on their Twitter account, she added. The Hatch Act, which limits federal employees' ability to express views on elections, candidates running for office, doesn't apply to basic disagreements with the administration, she said. Debra D'Agostino noted that federal employees have every right to express their disagreement the same as anyone else in this country. However, she thinks people are using the alt accounts because they’re afraid, and apparently rightfully so, but they don’t have to post anonymously., Debra D'Agostino discusses Twitter and President Trump with NextGov, Twitter Drops Lawsuit Against DHS Over Rogue Account, NextGov, 2017
  • The story of corruption and misuse of government credit cards for personal use by employees of the Western Area Power Administration are discussed by two of Debra D'Agostino's clients., Arizona Central discusses corruption at Western Area Power Administration with Debra D'Agostino's clients, Insiders rip power agency over theft, threats, Arizona Central, Federal Employees, 2017
  • Debra D'Agostino provided tips for reporting examples of waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, and explains in detail the rights that feds have once they become whistleblowers. Finally, D’Agostino talks about the clearance process in the federal government and explains the appeals process if your security clearance is revoked., Debra D'Agostino appears on Fed Access to discuss Whistleblower protections, Whistleblower protections & more, Federal News Radio, Federal Employees, 2017
  • Debra D'Agostino notes under current MSPB [Merit Systems Protection Board] case law, the employee must obey an order, and then challenge its validity, except in ‘extreme or unusual circumstances’ in which the employee would be placed in a clear danger or which would cause irreparable harm to the employee, or, presumably, the safety of the public. Her advice is to "comply now, complain later,’ even where there is substantial reason to believe that an order or policy is improper, or an employee can face discipline or removal for a charge of insubordination, The Washington Post interviews Debra D'Agostino about whether federal employees have the right to disregard a presidential order or administration policy, To Resist or not, the federal employee's dilemma, Washington Post, Federal Employees, 2017
  • Debra D'Agostino discusses the differences in employee rights between the private sector and federal government, and the right to free speech for federal workers., Government Matters interviews Debra D'Agostino about federal employee rights, Legal rights of federal employees, Government Matters, Federal, 2017
  • In May 2015, an analyst at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa filed a complaint regarding an urgent concern: Leadership was watering down intelligence on ISIS. What followed shows the flaws inherent when an agency watches itself. Over seven months later, Congress created a joint task force to investigate the analyst's concern. By then, a climate survey at CentCom revealed dozens of analysts found the environment toxic, and 40 percent experienced an "attempt to distort or suppress intelligence in the past year." Yet nothing was done., Debra D'Agostino pens a column about a recent Centcom Investigation, Disappointing end to CentCom investigation, Tampa Bay Times, Federal Employees, 2017
  • Debra D’Agostino said the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendment of 2014 mandates federal officials make copies of government business they send over private email. If a government employee conducts government business over Gmail, they are now obligated to forward that to an official dot-gov email. She also noted a District of Columbia Circuit Court decision last year allowed private email accounts to be searched in response to a FOIA request. The decision could open the door to federal employees’ personal phones getting searched for encrypted chats. However, it is unclear whether or what mechanism federal agencies would use to accomplish such a seizure. Yet, it is vital for federal employees to know that “the mere fact communications are subject to archival requirements does not override” free speech protections, D’Agostino said. She added that those in government need to understand their First Amendment rights, and those free speech rights don’t stop when they walk through the office door., Nextgov interviews Debra D'Agostino about the uses of personal technology while in the work place, How Feds Can Use Encrypted Apps—Without Breaking the Law, Nextgov, Federal Employees, 2017
  • In light of recent news, it is important for federal employees to know and understand that they do not relinquish their constitutional rights as a condition of employment with the federal government, and in fact have constitutionally protected property rights to their job that private sector employees do not have., Debra D'Agostino pens a column about what rights federal employees have, To federal employees: Know your rights!, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2017
  • The Pentagon’s bomb squad got some financially devastating news when their hazard pay was rescinded meaning they had now suddenly accrued debts of up to $173,000.hazard-duty pay. Debra D'Agostino who represented the bomb squad, said one next logical step would be for the Pentagon police force to go to OPM and make a case that the bomb-squad members should be compensated with some other form of incentive pay if hazard pay is not approved., Debra D'Agostino is interviewed by Dan Lamothe, In Pentagon bomb squad, an investigation and a fight to stave off financial ruin, Washington Post, Federal Employees, Pentagon Force Protection Agency, Bomb Squad, Military, 2016
  • The upcoming presidential transition and MSPB seat-change is prompting broader questions about the agency’s future — and whether two vacant spots on the board could leave the doors open to major changes about its function. Debra D'Agostino shared her concern that people who do what she does have is whether or not the board is going to be around much into the future., Federal News Network interviews Debra D'Agostino about impact of MSPB having just one voting member, MSPB will have 1 voting member in March. What happens next?, Federal News Network, Federal Employees, 2016
  • Debra D'Agostino discusses the Stock Act and its impact on Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials being assembled by President-elect Trump as it includes no shortage of wealthy and seasoned financial investors. This is not going to deter anyone from much of anything, since disclosure is not really enforced., Debra D'Agostino talks impact of Stock Act with Government Executive, Trump's Top Nominees Unlikely to Be Deterred by STOCK Act, Government Executive, 2016
  • Debra D'Agostino notes how there is something about firefighting that seems to make it a uniquely discriminatory environment for women and that the high incidence of harassment they face is higher than at many other agencies., The Washington Post interviews Debra D'Agostino about the harassment female firefighters face on the job, Few women fight wildfires. That’s not because they’re afraid of flames, Washington Post, Federal Employees, 2016
  • Debra D'Agostino noted questions remain as to whether the nepotism ban in 5 U.S.C. Section 3110 as applied to the president is constitutional. “It has not come up,” she said, “and if Trump were to nominate a relative and someone challenged him, there’s a good chance the statute would be found unconstitutional because of separation of powers concerns. The check built into the Constitution is that while the president can nominate someone for a Cabinet position, the Senate must approve.”, Government Executive interviews Debra D'Agostino about Nepotism in the federal government, Might Trump's Hunt-Loving Son Bump Into Federal Nepotism Law?, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2016
  • Despite it being 2016 pregnant workers are still having problems with employers and Debra D’Agostino who represents women in the intelligence community said supervisors “sound like they’re from another decade.”, The Washington Post interviews Debra D'Agostino about about work issues pregnant employees still face, Working while pregnant: To some employers, that’s apparently still a big problem, Washington Post , Federal Employees, 2016
  • In early July, the House passed the Government Reform and Improvement Act, H.R. 4361, which was supposed to be a short bill on information technology modernization. Instead, lawmakers packed it with major changes to the civil service system, all in the spirit of chipping away at federal employees’ due process rights and the reach of the Merit Systems Protection Board, one of the most efficient and well-run bodies in the federal government., Debra D'Agostino authors an article on Congress as it continues its attack on the due process rights of federal employees and the Merit Systems Protection Board, What Lawmakers Hope You Haven’t Noticed, Government Executive, Federal Employees, 2016
  • The Office of Special Counsel was busy in 2015 —  far busier than any year in its history — receiving and processing more prohibited personnel practice complaints and whistleblower disclosures from federal employees than the year before. Debra D'Agostino said the intentions of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act are making an impact on federal employees. And the Office of Special Counsel, which she and her colleagues once called “a black hole” for complaints, is beginning to show that it can process claims more quickly and is issuing more favorable results for federal employees., Debra D'Agostino is interviewed by Nicole Ogrysko concerning Whistleblowing cases hitting record highs, OSC whistleblower cases hit record highs in 2015, Federal News Radio, Federal Employees, Whistleblowers, 2016
  • The federal government’s has recently steps to eliminate discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation against its employees and have effectively finally made discrimination on these bases illegal and actionable. Debra D'Agostino writes about the progress and impact for federal employees., Debra D'Agostino authors a column on the progress the federal government is making in LGBT issues, Finally, progress for LGBT federal employees, Washington Blade, Federal Employees, 2016
  • Ms. D'Agostino gave evidence that Congressman Miller was wrong in his assessment of the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). When the MPSB ruled in favor of three VA employees Congressman Miller called out the MSPB as coddling federal employees and inefficient. Ms. D'Agostino noted through example just how efficient the MSPB was and that the three judges who had ruled in favor of the VA employees in the previous year had only ruled in favor of federal employees a combined total of five times. , Column, Congress is Just Wrong About the MSPB, Government Executive, 2016
  • Debra D’Agostino said recent Department of Justice decision could have implications for those legislative debates, particularly as Congress reconsiders MSPB’s role in the disciplinary appeals process. Her feeling is is it appropriate to have an administrative judge have the final say, these administrative judges are hired just like the employees that they’re deciding the fates of. DoJ said a controversial provision in the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act — which ultimately renders an administrative judge’s decision final in a senior executive’s disciplinary appeal before the Merit Systems Protection Board — is unconstitutional., Debra D'Agostino is interviewed by Nicole Ogrysko on a recent DoJ statement concerning the MSPB, DoJ says key VA Choice provision for SES appeals is unconstitutional, Federal News Radio, Federal Employees, 2016
  • Debra D'Agostino discusses why TSA such a high turnover rate with much of it being tied to poor salary and benefits., Debra D'Agostino authors a column the bad environment at TSA, You would't want to be a TSA security screener either, Federal News Radio, Federal Employees, TSA Employees, 2016
  • Debra D'Agostino describes the juvenile, frat-boy nonsense that goes on at the management levels at TSA. She does not feel it is  what one would expect to hear going on at office that has such an important role in our nation’s security., Ms. D'Agostino was interviewed by Andrew Becker, Wedgie, noogie, pushup: Life inside TSA’s intelligence office, Reveal News, Federal Employees, TSA Workers, 2016

Other Outstanding Achievements

  • Debra D' Agostino named Super Lawyer 2020, 2020
  • Debra D' Agostino is a Board Member of the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association, 2019
  • Debra D' Agostino named Super Lawyer 2019, 2019

Special Licenses/Certifications

  • Ms. D’Agostino is  a AAA certified mediator, 2020

Bar/Professional Activity

  • Debra D'Agostino was asked to serve as a panelist at the 2020 Federal Circuit Judicial Conference (5.15.20). The topic was "The Brave New World of All-Circuit Review: Whistleblowing Goes National".  , 2020
  • Panelist for a MWELA discussion on Litigating EEO cases against Intelligence Agencies (2.27.20)., 2020
  • DebraD'Agstino presented at Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) on Pregnancy, Discrimination and Accommadation, Family Leave and Lactation (10.22.19)., 2019
  • Debra D'Agostino served on the Whistleblower Update Panel for the ABA Section of Labor & Employment (3.10.20), 2020
  • Debra presented at FDR Training in August 2020. Topic was Pregnancy, Discrimination and Accomadation, Family Leave and Lactation., 2020
  •  Debra D'Agostino presented onThe Changing Legal Landscape of the Civil Service” at the 2019 MWELA Annual Conference in Washington, DC., 2019
  • District of Columbia
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • GAO Focus Group Session on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 The primary purpose was to solicit your input on whether Congress should grant the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) summary judgment authority as well as grant jurisdiction for a subset of cases to the U.S. District Court. The findings were published approximately Nov. 28, 2016: GAO-17-110 Whistleblower Protection: Additional Actions Would Improve Recording and Reporting of Appeals Data  http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-110, 2016
  • Speaker, Blacks in Government Conference,  The Do’s and Don’ts of Litigating at the EEOC 8.24.2015, 2015
  • Ms. D'Agostino serves on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association. She is also a member of the District of Columbia Women's Bar Association and the National Employment Lawyers Association., 2016
  • The Federal Circuit Bar Association
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
  • Speaker, Blacks in Government Conference,  How to Defend Against Disciplinary and/or Adverse Actions 8.23.2016, 2016
  • Board Member, Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association (MWELA), 2016
  • New York
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • Speaker, Blacks in Government Conference,  How to Defend Against a Reduction in Force 8.22.2017, 2017

Industry Groups

  • Federal Government Employees
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Office Location for Debra A. D'Agostino

1750 K Street NW
Suite 900
Washington, DC 20006

Last Updated: 11/6/2020

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