Feds are in a unique employment situation– different than any other job or career. When you’re a federal employee in any capacity, you're subject to a different set of rules, regulations, laws, and workplace norms than any other workplace. In many ways, every job is under a microscope - because every fed is serving the government while also serving the public.
Working in the public sector, every citizen, every politician, and activist thinks they're your boss. They feel that federal workers, as "public servants," somehow have to answer to them - in addition to your manager, supervisor, or agency head.
These are politically polarized and politically sensitive times in every workplace – but especially in the federal government. A casual conversation, a Facebook post, or a workplace interaction, can all trigger a negative response.
Co-workers, subordinate employees, managers, members of the public, elected officials, or special interest groups can bring actions or file complaints. Because of this, feds in every job risk exposure to administrative, civil, and criminal liability; from senior executives in high-visibility roles to agents and officers dealing with the public, to entry-level staffers.
If an allegation is made against you, will your agency defend you?
Sometimes they will – sometimes they will not. Do your homeowners or umbrella insurance policy cover you? Almost always, the answer is no. If your accuser fails to get what they want through the government complaint channels like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), they can still decide to sue you personally.
Win or lose, it can still cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees and potential settlements. If you hire a lawyer who is not an expert in the maze that is federal employment law, your case is much less likely to be resolved in your favor. With Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance (FEPLI), you'll be assisted by experienced attorneys who will guide you through the legal process from beginning to end.
Managers, employees who deal directly with the public, and federal law enforcement are the most frequent targets. But every fed faces exposure, whether from inside or outside the workforce.
Of course, if you are accused, you have to defend yourself. Starr Wright USA was founded for, and continues to protect feds. Company founder Frank Wright recognized that every federal employee needed protection, so he developed the nation’s first Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance option.
With FEPLI, federal employees receive legal assistance and indemnity coverage if a claim is made, even if that claim is baseless or false, such as unbecoming or improper conduct, or lack of candor. Common covered claim examples include preferential treatment; unjust firing due to race, age or gender; misusing work computers or other equipment; security clearance challenges; using a government vehicle for non-work purposes; Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) cases for intelligence and law enforcement management; or using government funds for unintended purposes.
FEPLI offers three types of protection against liability: Administrative, civil and criminal. Administrative complaints commonly include EEO actions, OIG/OSC investigations, whistleblower complaints, or ethics investigations. In such cases, FEPLI coverage may provide the employee with legal advice and representation through the investigative and/or disciplinary process.
Civil actions may commonly include constitutional torts, personal capacity lawsuits, or Bivens actions. In the case of a civil lawsuit, FEPLI coverage provides legal services.
In the case of criminal charges, FEPLI coverage provides legal defense. FEPLI offers both legal defense coverage and indemnity coverage for administrative, civil and criminal claims.
Professional Liability Insurance coverage is available to all federal workers, including:
• Executive, judicial and legislative branch employees
• Law enforcement officials and officers
• Military civilian federal employees
• Federal contractors
• Intelligence and Defense Agency employees
• Union employees and stewards
• Judges and attorneys
• Doctors, nurses and other federal healthcare professionals
• Any other federal government employees
Here are some examples of how feds could face misconduct accusations or lawsuits in the scope of their work:
- A supervisor disciplines an employee who then files a claim for retaliation or discrimination.
- A member of the public sues a federal agent in federal district court claiming his investigation amounted to malicious prosecution.
- A National Forest District Ranger may be sued personally by ranchers for violating their First Amendment rights to petition the government concerning cattle grazing restrictions.
Even high ranking government officials can be sued personally, as were former Attorney General Eric Holder and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew by an organization representing conservative groups.
Many professionals have liability insurance. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals have malpractice insurance. Service business professionals like accountants, lawyers, marketing executives, real estate agents, tech consultants, and more have professional liability or “errors and omissions” insurance.
Just like these public-sector professionals, feds need protection too. Starr Wright USA Vice President Darrell Weber states, “Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance is often thought of primarily as insurance for federal law enforcement officers. But at Starr Wright USA, we believe everyone should consider this coverage. Whether you are a supervisor evaluating employee performance, a manager making hiring decisions, or a federal employee dealing with the public, you need the same protection for your career, your finances, and your pension as other professionals. We are proud of our track record of protecting feds like you.”
Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA; this article is offered solely for informational purposes. Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit WrightUSA.com. Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.