D.C.’s Office of Employee Appeals: What D.C. Employees Need to Know

January 23, 2020

Washington, D.C. acts as the seat of the United States federal government. All three branches of the government are headquartered in D.C., and the District of Columbia was chartered for this very purpose. The United States Constitution prohibits taking the territory of one state to carve out another state with the exception that Congress was authorized to establish a capital district to act as the seat of government under its exclusive legislative control. When Maryland and Virginia ceded territory to create the District of Columbia, however, it left some unanswered questions about the rights of D.C. residents and numerous federal, state, non-profit, international, and political employees.

Experienced D.C. and NOVA Employee Rights & Appeals Attorneys

D.C. employees are neither per se federal nor state employees, and they aren’t subject to Virginia or Maryland law. Instead, Congress itself acts as the “state” legislator and local authority for D.C. residents and employees, but they have practically delegated this responsibility to D.C.’s local governing body. This resulted in the creation of an Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) for the District of Columbia, which is an independent agency of D.C.’s congressionally established local government. This office acts as the administrative review body for D.C.-based employees claiming violation of certain local D.C. employment laws.

The interplay between local D.C. law, federal employment law, state-based employee regulations, and federal employee appeals procedures are often complex. The top-rated D.C. employee rights and appeals lawyers at McClanahan Powers, PLLC, can help wronged D.C. government employees detangle this legal web and enforce their rights in Washington, D.C. Contact them today at (703) 520-1326 or online for your confidential D.C. OEA consultation.

Overview of OEA Jurisdiction and Authority

The OEA is composed of five members appointed by the Mayor of D.C. The members’ primary job is to hear and decide labor-related appeals received from either a D.C. agency or qualifying local agency employee. The employee must be an employee of the local D.C. government, not the federal government, and he or she must have exhausted all agency-level appeals. This is the equivalent of being a state employee of D.C. The D.C. OEA is vested with the authority to hear and rule on the following types of disputes:

  • The final decision of a local D.C. agency to terminate an employee based on a performance rating
  • The termination of an employee for cause based on an agency complaint or official action
  • A layoff/reduction in force/furlough
  • Reduction in pay grade or demotion
  • Placement on forced leave (administrative leave or leave without pay)
  • Suspension for 10 days or more

It’s essential D.C. employees know they only have thirty days to appeal a final adverse employment decision to the OEA. If they do not, they risk losing both their appeal rights and the right to take the case to D.C. local courts. Appealing to the OEA is generally a jurisdictional prerequisite to bringing the case to D.C. courts.

Timeline and Structure of the OEA Employee Appeals Process

To appeal an adverse decision, a D.C. employee must first exhaust all appeals options with his or her agency-employer. These procedures should be contained in the employee handbook. An appeal filed with the OEA before exhausting other options will likely be rejected, wasting valuable time and resources. If you’re unsure whether you’ve exhausted your agency appeals options, contact a D.C. agency appeals lawyer at McClanahan Powers, PLLC, for an agency case review.

Following a final decision from the local agency, an affected employee may appeal to the OEA within 30 days. The OEA appeals process typically proceeds as follows:

  • The employee initiates appeal with a petition that should include any relevant agency files and paperwork
  • The OEA scans the petition, returns it if rejected, and if not, creates a case number and serves a copy of the petition on the employing agency with instructions to file a response within a certain timeframe
  • The agency files its response or elects not to respond by the deadline
  • The OEA determines if the dispute can be resolved without an official OEA ruling and, if so, may facilitate mediation, settlement, or conciliation between the parties
  • An official settlement or reconciliation between the parties will result in dismissal of the appeal, and if none is reached, an administrative judge will be assigned to handle the petition
  • The parties and judge hold a prehearing conference to address any motions or issues before the official hearing is held
  • The hearing, mini-trial, is held whereby the parties present evidence and make legal arguments before the assigned judge
  • The judge issues a final written opinion deciding the matter
  • The affected party has the option of appealing the judge’s decision to the C. Superior Court

The administrative record stemming from an OEA appeal is essential for enforcing an employee’s rights in D.C. Court. Superior Court judges are typically bound by the content of the OEA administrative record. This means employees can’t introduce new evidence in Court. The administrative record, however, begins with the employee’s petition and evidence submitted in support of the same. D.C. employees preparing an OEA appeal must know to submit all relevant evidence, including employee handbooks, employment files, offer letters, pay stubs, performance reviews, complaints, and even relevant emails if it could be used to prove their case. They likely won’t receive another chance to do so.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Consultation with a DC OEA Appeals Attorney

Administrative appeals, whether at the federal or state-level, often involve complex jurisdictional rules that defy common sense. It’s hard enough for employees to navigate administrative appeals at the federal or state level, but even more so in the complex D.C. local system. Not to mention an employee only has 30 days to effectuate an appeal to the OEA and submit evidence essential for a potential appeal to D.C. Superior Court.

At McClanahan Powers, PLLC, we know the OEA system isn’t designed to ensure employee success, especially when he/she is looking for work or struggling financially. It takes an experienced and compassionate D.C. administrative appeals attorney from McClanahan Powers, PLLC to help D.C. employees navigate this complex process. Don’t delay. Contact our D.C. OEA employee appeals lawyers today at (703) 520-1326 or online for your confidential case review and consultation.