Warning letters in security file

Three years ago I had an incident where I was very depressed. In a closed door meeting with my supervisors I lost my cool and blurted out, “sometimes I feel like I want to kill myself!” That resulted in them calling security and I got put on a paid administrative leave. At the end of three months they determined that I was not a threat to myself or anyone else (duh!), and they gave me back my secret clearance with no conditions. A year later I was offered another federal job with a background check, not even a clearance. I admitted on the e-qip that I’d had a suspension and it had been adjudicated. The contractor who wrote the letter said it wouldn’t be an issue, but when the agency who’d offered me the position saw in the initial documentation that I’d had a warning letter, they rescinded the offer–so it became punitive. I have had stellar performance reviews and no incidents and I never understood why the letter even exists. My personnel file has no warnings of any kind. This is in my security file, which I understand is a different thing. My union seems clueless about this and I’m applying for another position with another branch of the same agency that pulled the offer. I’m wondering how to get this letter pulled from my file or at the very least, have it not mentioned by anybody going forward. It may come up in an investigation, but mention of it to a prospective supervisor cost me a job. It seems so wrong.

HR step one. Security office step 2. Legal consultation step 3. Many government agencies tried reducing the stigma of mental health services and conditions. Depression is real and what was blurted out under stress should not necessarily affect you like this. They were being overly cautious. I would at least seek to have a rebuttal statement added to the warning file. Normally, by explaining the situation it is understandable. Don’t fear having a letter in there. Adjudicators understand supervisors can be capricious at times.

I haven’t found our HR to be very helpful. I’m going to book a meeting with Employee Labor Relations, but I am pretty sure they work for management. I have tried the Security Office and they were also not helpful. I’ve reached out to the legal department at my union and constituent services at my Senator’s office. But I’m looking for the statute that makes this legal. I like the idea of a rebuttal–in fact, my rebuttal at the time of the suspension was accepted and backed up by two counselors who said I absolutely posed no risk to myself or anyone else and when I looked at the pure S%$t this supervisor told the investigator, I asked myself why if I was such a threat, why in 11 years of Federal employment nobody had ever reprimanded me, counseled me, even mentioned that there was a problem? Because there wasn’t. This was a mobbing plain and simple. I’m wondering if at this late date it is even worth putting in a rebuttal. I’m looking for a legal fix.

What, exactly, would you sue for? I don’t believe that you have any right to a specific job. They can deny you for any reason that they want.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to help you figure out a way around this and back into a job that you want. I just don’t see you going about it in the right way.

The solution isn’t to get them to ignore or dismiss the incident. The solution is to provide mitigation that shows that this was a one time incident and is not likely to recur.


I wasn’t thinking at all of litigation. I was thinking of finding the statute or precedence. If this was disciplinary, there would have been a date at which it was no longer in my file. In fact, there is nothing in my employee file but exceeds successful performance reviews and a performance award. This is in a security file that can only be accessed by security. It had a very negative impact on me after I was assured it would not. If you can advise me of the right way to go about this, I would be very grateful. I’m almost afraid to apply for other positions that I am well-qualified for because of this. A lawsuit is a lengthy and arduous process that I am hoping is not necessary.

You are the one who knows how much information you have on the incident. It was only three years ago and you made what was considered a credible threat to kill yourself. Mitigating factors would include the reasons for that depression, what you have done to alleviate those factors and what you are doing about your depression now. Those factors need to be in your presentation when you fill out an eQip. Are you in therapy now?

You put the suspension on your eQip. What did you say about it? “It was adjudicated” isn’t much of a mitigation.

Actually it happened the same week I lost two family members and ended a 10-year relationship. The woman who initiated it was fond of telling everyone she couldn’t wait for the Rapture to come so she could go be with Jesus. There had never been before that or after that, any issues relating to conduct or to my mental health. It was a situational thing and I did go to counseling. The counselor told me and she told the investigator that there was nothing that would even be considered a cause for concern. I used an expression in a closed-door meeting. I was extremely stressed that morning and I’d been dealing with a dysfunctional manager for a long time. I’d even thought of calling in sick that morning, but since I was coming off of annual leave, I didn’t want to give the appearance that I was extending my leave. They ask on EQip if you’ve had a suspension in seven years, so you have to claim it and I did. They do not give you any place that I saw to explain what the circumstances are. I am not in therapy now because there is no need for it. I did go then and I would go again if I found myself in an emotional log jam. Three years ago is quite a period of time. Certainly long enough to resolved both a situational depression and a misconduct issues (if there ever was one). I keep hearing from Security that the further this gets in my rear view mirror, the less of an issue it is. No, I can’t bring back my dead relatives and I have no interest in reviving a relationship that was over three years ago. I’m doing great and feeling fine. I want to move on–but this gets in the way.

Rereading, in order to put everything together, let me see if I have this right . . .

The suicide threat was three years ago.

The job where you were rejected after admitting to the suspension was two years ago, only a year after the suspension.

Now, you have another job offer.

Apply for the job. NOW you have time between you and the event. When you applied for the first position, all of this had just happened. You still need to have your facts straight and you will need to address this but you have now put some time between you and the event.

It wasn’t even a threat. The exact impression was “Sometimes I feel like killing myself!” Behind closed doors in a heated discussion. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t has a poor choice of words at one time or another. I am working to get the letter out of my file. Quite frankly, there was no actual threat to myself or anyone. That’s what makes this whole thing so stupid. I don’t want to have to defend myself over this. I want it purged. I reached out to my union legal team and they told me that unless my local steward wanted to work with them on this, they considered it ancient history. I will continue to work to be sure it is out of my file and doesn’t come back to haunt me again. I appreciate your attention to this, but you really haven’t given me any viable solution. Surely there is something out there that limits the time someone can be branded for.

Actually . . . I did . . . You just don’t like it . . . No problem.

Actually, I don’t dislike it. It just isn’t anything I haven’t explored before and doesn’t actually address the initial request for statutes regarding security letters and/or having an old one pulled. Thanks anyway.

I believe each company can decide how long to keep a letter. And anything touching on those words…I think most any agency would keep them longer than say a dental appointment. I understand you feel railroaded and the letter should not be there. If you have a solid manager now I would work to reframe the event and see if they would speak to it and state that they currently believe the statement was made under duress, not likely to repeat itself. In one way it refreshes the event and note, but offers a current assessment speaking to no issues since that event and no belief it will occur again moving forward. That to me is a solid mitigation along with time.