Discipline Cases Against Employees on the Rise at the SEC


3/26/12: Over the past several months, NTEU has noted a marked rise in formal disciplinary actions against SEC employees. This trend is disturbing -- not only due to the increased volume of cases, but also because of the nature of the matters. More and more often, the Union is seeing cases that previously would not have been handled as formal disciplines. Union leadership feels that you should be aware of this troubling workplace trend.

One aspect of the trend involves managers who are seeking formal discipline against employees for performance related issues, and/or disagreements with supervisors over work-related decisions. For example, a manager might allege that an attorney failed to take some specific action in connection with an investigation, such as a particular type of database search. As another example, a manager may claim that he or she did not like the way an accountant communicated a disagreement over a work related issue.

In the past, these types of criticisms would typically have been dealt with as performance issues during the ratings process. Increasingly, however, SEC managers are being encouraged to seek formal discipline against employees for such performance related issues, in some cases involving punishments as severe as multi-day suspensions without pay.

Managers also appear to be increasingly seeking formal discipline against employees for allegations of relatively minor rule infractions. For example, we are seeing more time and attendance issues being raised. In one recent case, management sought to suspend an employee for several days without pay for a first-time offense. The employee was accused of arriving several minutes late to work on several occasions over the past year.

Most of the SEC frontline employees that we represent come from private sector law firms, accounting firms and regulated entities. They are willing to work long hours or take work home when necessary to get the job done, and they are not accustomed to worrying about whether they occasionally arrive at the office a few minutes late or take more than 30 minutes for lunch. We are seeing that this can result in unexpected consequences for unsuspecting employees.

Employees need to be aware of the increased possibility of discipline under current senior management at the SEC. If you are a Union member and you receive a notice of proposed discipline, please consult with a steward before making any response or taking any action.