Dealing with employee performance issues is difficult as a supervisor. But what if you’re an employee experiencing backlash because your employer found out you are seeking out other offers? Recently, a new subscriber to the ClearanceJobs marketplace ran into workplace issues after their employer became aware of them obtaining a clearance through another company.
The importance of documenting performance problems as they occur cannot be overstated here.
CLearance Sought; Backlash Began
“I work in the private sector and am trying to get a clearance job. My current employer found out about this and now they are nit-picking my work and I feel like it’s due to retaliation for wanting to leave. I haven’t had a single job-related issue for over 9 years. What would you suggest? If I get fired or written up while I am waiting for my clearance, should I try to get ahead of this or wait for the investigator? Will they be understanding of my situation?”
Demonstrating good judgment and reliability by following rules and procedures in the workplace is a significant factor for determining eligibility for access to national security information. This issue would fall under Personal Conduct in the adjudicative guidelines and considers a person’s honesty, integrity, judgment, trustworthiness, and reliability.
Listing previous employment on your SF-86 is required and the background investigator may or may not contact your previous employers, depending on the level of security clearance you obtain. If a current employer is contacted, and that person has negative things to say, it’s important to remember the adjudicator will operate off of the whole person concept when making a determination. Investigators are likewise used to interacting with individuals who may have reasons for being upset that have nothing to do with national security (like an employee who may leave their job).
NEXT STEPS to Mitigate effects of the Backlash on your Clearance Process
Sean Bigley, security clearance attorney and former background investigator says “I’d definitely recommend that they proactively volunteer this information when meeting with their investigator. If the current employer is already acting this way, chances are good that the investigator is going to get an earful from them about the applicant’s job performance when interviewed.”
Providing this information in advance will help the investigator and ultimately, the adjudicator, put the employer’s claims in context.
Also, start carefully documenting issues now – a paper trail is critical to mounting a successful defense. Make any and all copies of evidence supporting your version of events (such as favorable past performance evaluations, bonuses, etc.) in a safe place at home. Often when employer-employee issues blow up, the employee has little or no time to secure this type of important evidence before being shown the door. So start now.
overview of the ADJUDICATIVE PROCESS
Anyone in this situation trying to obtain a security clearance (or another job), and experiencing this type of employer jealousy, should know that generally a one-off bad employer reference isn’t going to ruin your prospects of a security clearance or cleared job, unless the reason for the bad reference is a serious security violation or evidence of moral turpitude (e.g. time card fraud or other honesty issues).
Applicants for security clearance are evaluated on potentially disqualifying and mitigating conditions listed under 13 separate adjudicative guidelines.
As a reminder, the full 13 are:
(1) Guideline A: Allegiance to the United States
(2) Guideline B: Foreign Influence
(3) Guideline C: Foreign Preference
(4) Guideline D: Sexual Behavior
(5) Guideline E: Personal Conduct
(6) Guideline F: Financial Considerations
(7) Guideline G: Alcohol Consumption
(8) Guideline H: Drug Involvement
(9) Guideline I: Psychological Conditions
(10) Guideline J: Criminal Conduct
(11) Guideline K: Handling Protected Information
(12) Guideline L: Outside Activities
(13) Guideline M: Use of Information Technology Systems
The adjudication process is the careful weighing of a number of variables known as the whole-person concept. Available, reliable information about the person, past and present, favorable and unfavorable, should be considered in reaching a determination.
If you have only one bad incident or reference, it won’t ruin your security clearance career. Just keep the paper trail on hand.