Industry Complaints Against FSIS Program Employees
This directive establishes policy, and prescribes procedures for processing and resolving industry * * * complaints against program employees resulting from official duties or activities.
This directive cancels FSIS Directive 4735.7, dated 10/22/97.
III. REASON FOR REISSUANCE
This directive updates the guidelines for resolving industry * * * complaints against program employees.
- FSIS Directive 4735.3, Employee Responsibilities and Conduct
- FSIS Directive 4735.4, Revision 3, Reporting Assault, Harassment, Interference, Intimidation or Threat
V. ABBREVIATIONS AND FORMS
The following will appear in their shortened form in this directive:
- DM District Manager
- EARO Executive Associate for Regulatory Operations, OFO
- ERB Employee Relations Branch, Labor and Employee Relations Division
- LERD Labor and Employee Relations Division
- OFO Office of Field Operations
- OIG Office of Inspector General
A. FSIS regulations provide establishments the opportunity to appeal, orally and in writing, an inspection finding or regulatory decision made by an FSIS employee. These appeals follow the chain of command. This directive does not apply to industry appeals which follow a separate process.
B. Program employees must display professional behavior and conduct their regulatory duties in a fair, unbiased, equitable, and non-retaliatory manner.
C. It is FSIS policy to:
- Conduct an inquiry into all complaints * * * against program employees by industry officials.
- Seek prompt resolution of complaints * * * against program employees by industry officials.
- Ensure all parties receive information on the results of the inquiry, as appropriate.
A. Formal Complaint. An industry official’s charge of wrongdoing by a program employee. EXAMPLES: Assault, harassment, interference, intimidation, retaliation, threat or other misconduct. Formal complaints are generally written and may require a formal inquiry and response
B. Informal Complaint. An industry official’s expression of dissatisfaction or disagreement with a program employee. Informal complaints are generally verbal and are addressed at the local level.
C Assault. An act that results in bodily harm or willful attempt to inflict bodily harm.
D. Harassment. An act or behavior to annoy or torment repeatedly and persistently.
E. Industry Appeal. An industry’s appeal of a specific inspection decision or regulatory action taken by a program employee.
F. Program Employee. Any employee who is assigned to perform or supervise inspection, enforcement, or other program-related duties and responsibilities.
G. Interference. An act or behavior to hamper, hinder, block, resist, oppose or impede the actions or activities of another person. * * * Interference includes non-threatening actions intended to prevent or adversely affect the performance of official duties and responsibilities.
H. Intimidation. An act or behavior to compel or deter action by coercion, extortion, duress, or threat.
I. Retaliation. An activity perceived as an action to get even or to control a particular situation or business relationship.
J. Threat. Any gesture or verbal or written expression that conveys intent to cause physical or non-physical harm to the individuals or their property.
This directive covers the policies and procedures that apply when a regulated industry representative complains about an Agency employee. Procedures for reporting workplace violence against Agency employees, by industry employees, are covered under FSIS Directive 4735.4, Revision 3, Reporting Assault, Harassment, Interference, Intimidation or Threat.
PART TWO—COMPLAINT PROCEDURE
Supervisors and management officials must follow the procedures in this directive when a complaint or allegation of wrongdoing is lodged against an Agency employee by an industry official. Supervisory officials must incorporate the work relationship principles into resolutions. (See Attachment 2-1, Relationship Principles.) Resolution at the lowest possible supervisory level is desirable and encouraged.
A. Informal Complaints. Occasionally people disagree with one another. Disagreements may occur as a result of carrying out regulatory duties and responsibilities. Program employees must avoid unprofessional behavior. Sometimes after a heated discussion, a "cooling off" period is advisable before continuing the discussion. Supervisory officials may receive verbal complaints. When complaints are received, the supervisor, DM, or designee contacts industry officials or others and attempts to resolve the complaint.
B. Formal Complaints. When a plant owner or operator contacts the supervisor or DM, in writing, with specific accusations against a program employee, the following actions occur:
1. The supervisor or DM requests in writing the following information if such information is not included in a letter from the plant owner or operator. (NOTE: If the plant is staffed with State employees under provisions of the Talmadge-Aiken Act, the State official designated as the Coordinator receives, reviews, and attempts to resolve the complaint. Plant owners or operators may contact the DM if they are not satisfied with the disposition of the matter.)
- a. Name of complainant.
- b. Name of Agency employee(s).
- c. Statement explaining the nature and scope of the incident(s) including date(s), time(s), and names of witnesses.
- d. Explanation of prior attempts to resolve the complaint, if applicable.
2. The accused Agency employee is advised of the written complaint or allegations pertaining to the employee within a reasonable period after receipt by the Agency, unless releasing such information is prohibited by law or relates to a pending or ongoing investigation.
3. The supervisor or DM reviews the complaint and gathers preliminary information.
4. The supervisor or DM determines, within 10 working days, whether to conduct or initiate a review of the situation or request a formal investigation. Requests for formal investigations are made in writing to the Branch Chief, ERB, LERD.
5. If a review is initiated, the supervisor or DM provides a copy of the written complaint to the employee unless prohibited as outlined under number two above. The supervisor or DM requests, in writing, a response from the accused employee, if appropriate.
6. DM determines, within 10 working days, the assignment status of the employee. The DM considers the severity of the accusation, history, and preliminary information, to determine the appropriate assignment status decision. The three options for assignment status are:
- a. No change in assignment.
- b. Detail employee to another assignment.
- c. Place employee on administrative leave.
II. MISCONDUCT ALLEGATION
When it is alleged that a program employee may have engaged in:
A. Theft or an attempt to extort funds through reimbursable services and overtime procedures, or other criminal activities, the employee or supervisor receiving this information immediately telephones the USDA OIG to report such activity. Attachment 2-2, Regional Offices of the Inspector General, lists the addresses, telephone numbers, and territories of OIG offices.
B. Instances of serious misconduct, the employee or supervisor receiving this information immediately contacts the supervisor, DM, or ERB.
III. RESOLUTION ATTEMPT
When the supervisor, DM, or designee is able to resolve the complaint, the complainant receives a letter describing the terms and basis for resolution. The District Office maintains the complaint file.
IV. DISSATISFACTION WITH THE DM RESOLUTION
If the industry official (complainant) is dissatisfied with the DM’s resolution of the complaint, the industry official may refer the matter to the EARO. The EARO:
A. Requests the complete case file from the DM on receipt of the industry official’s letter.
B. Determines, within 10 days, the appropriateness of the DM’s response to the complaint:
- If the EARO believes the case was resolved satisfactorily, the EARO sends a letter to the complainant explaining the reasons for supporting the DM’s decision.
- If the EARO believes additional action is warranted, the EARO initiates further inquiry or initiates a request for a formal investigation. Requests for formal investigations are made in writing to the Branch Chief, ERB, LERD.
- The EARO sends the complainant a letter on the status of the accusation, with a courtesy copy to the DM.
V. TERMINATION OF INVESTIGATION OR INQUIRY
A. When the investigation is complete, LERD provides the findings to the EARO and determines the appropriate disciplinary action, if warranted.
B. The EARO sends the complainant a letter on the outcome of the investigation or inquiry, as appropriate, with a courtesy copy to the DM. NOTE: The Privacy Act limits sharing of personal information about individuals. As a result, the letter to the complainant may not be explicit about the outcome of the investigation or inquiry if it reveals privacy-protected information about an employee.
See full PDF for Attachments
- Relationship Principles
- Regional Offices of the Inspector General