Report Suggests Improvements for Handling Federal Employee Misconduct

GAO takes a look at federal employee misconduct and ways agencies can improve how they handle it.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office discusses ways that federal agencies can more effectively address employee misconduct.

GAO said that an average of less than 1 percent (17,000) of the federal government’s 2.1 million employees are formally disciplined for misconduct annually. While this is a very small number, GAO notes that even a few cases of employee misconduct can have significant impacts on workplace morale and impede an agency’s efforts to achieve its mission.

Based on data from the Office of Personnel Management, federal agencies made 10,249 suspensions, 7,411 removals, and 114 demotions for misconduct in 2016. However, GAO said that because of weaknesses in OPM’s data on employee misconduct, which is provided by the agencies, OPM is unable to accurately target supervisory training to address misconduct, and decision-makers do not know the full extent or nature of this misconduct.

Examples of Misconduct

Examples of employee misconduct can include:

  • time and attendance infractions
  • intoxication
  • workplace violence
  • physical aggression toward an employee
  • improper use of a government-issued credit card
  • misuse of government equipment (such as viewing pornography or gambling)
  • use of public position for private gain
  • behavior that affects national security

Challenges in Addressing Employee Misconduct

The GAO report went into a very lengthy explanation of the process agencies and supervisors have to go through to address federal employee misconduct issues under US Code. This graphic from the GAO report illustrates the process:

Image showing a flow chart of the federal employee misconduct process Using Chapter 75, Subchapter II and Chapter 77 of the U.S. Code
Process for Identifying and Addressing Employee Misconduct Using Chapter 75, Subchapter II and Chapter 77 of the U.S. Code

A copy of the full report is included below.

Federal Employee Misconduct…

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.