3 FAM 4540 


(CT:PER-1020;   10-05-2020)
(Office of Origin:  GTM/ER/CSD)

3 FAM 4541  purpose of list

(CT:PER-860;   07-17-2017)
(State Only)
(Applies to Civil Service Employees)

The purpose of this subchapter is to advise employees, supervisors, and managers of some of the types of employee conduct which can result in disciplinary action.  It is intended that that material be required reading for new employees and that it be referred to during briefings on the behavior expected of employees, ethics, etc.  The Department believes that the more employees know and understand their responsibilities and the professional standards by which they are expected to abide, the less likely it is that they will engage in improper behavior that requires disciplinary action.  Disciplinary action is taken only after it has been determined that discipline, rather than less formal action, such as counseling, is necessary.


(CT:PER-860;   07-17-2017)
(State Only)
(Applies to Civil Service Employees)

a. It is impossible to list every possible punishable offense, and no attempt has been made to do this.  Employees are on notice that any violation of Department regulations could be deemed misconduct regardless of whether listed in 3 FAM 4540.  This table of penalties lists the most common types of employee misconduct.  Some offenses have been included mainly as a reminder that particular behavior is to be avoided, and in the case of certain type of offenses, like sexual assault, workplace violence, and discriminatory and sexual harassment, to understand the Department's no-tolerance policy.

b. All employees are on notice that misconduct toward, or exploitation of, those who are particularly vulnerable to the employee's authority and control, e.g., subordinates, are considered to be particularly egregious and will not be tolerated. 


(CT:PER-860;   07-17-2017)
(State Only)
(Applies to Civil Service Employees)

The broad range of "possible" penalties in this subchapter is intended to serve as a general guideline.  The proposing or deciding official, however, retains the discretion necessary to select the most appropriate action in any particular case in view of all the facts and circumstances.  In deciding whether to discipline an employee and in selecting an appropriate disciplinary action, the proposing or deciding official takes into consideration the constructive purpose of discipline, which is intended to:

(1)  Correct, if possible, unacceptable conduct, attitude, or work habits;

(2)  In every case, ensure that necessary action is taken to help maintain morale and efficiency of the Service; and

(3)  Be fair and reasonable in its degree of severity.


(CT:PER-860;   07-17-2017)
(State Only)
(Applies to Civil Service Employees)

The following principles will be observed by supervisors and managers in the first instance, and by proposing and deciding officials when formal disciplinary action is considered:

(1)  The disciplinary action should be consistent with the precept of like penalties for similar offenses with mitigating or aggravating circumstances taken into consideration.  Whether or not offenses are alike will be based on similarity of the underlying conduct rather than how the charge  is worded.  The action taken should be fair and equitable; and if a penalty is warranted, it should be no more severe than sound judgment indicates is required to correct the situation and maintain discipline.  The penalties listed in this subchapter should serve as a guide for appropriate actions for most offenses.  It is entirely possible, however, that an objective review of all facts and circumstances in a given case will indicate a greater penalty, a less severe penalty, or no penalty should be recommended, as appropriate to obtain the general objective herein;

(2)  In determining what action should be taken, it should be established whether the employee knew, or could reasonably be expected to know, what standards of conduct or performance was expected of him or her.  However, at a minimum, Federal employees must understand they are expected to abide by the law, the Department's regulations, and common-sense standards of conduct;

(3)  Employees in leadership positions or in law enforcement positions must understand that they will be held to a higher standard of conduct and that they are expected to model professionalism, integrity, and responsibility;

(4)  Repetition of the same offense, or related offenses, will be considered in assessing any penalty; as such, repetition may imply a disregard for authority and/or an inability to correct behavior; and

(5)  The decision as to the action to be taken must in no way be influenced by the employee's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, disability, political opinions or affiliations, sexual orientation, or gender identity


(CT:PER-860;   07-17-2017)
(State Only)
(Applies to Civil Service Employees)

The following factors should be considered in determining the appropriate penalty.  Not all factors are applicable to all cases. 

(1)  Nature and seriousness of the offense, and its relation duties, position and responsibilities, including whether the offense was intentional or technical or inadvertent, or was committed maliciously or for gain, or was frequently repeated;

(2)  Position of employee, including supervisory or fiduciary role, contacts with the public, and prominence of the position;

(3)  Past disciplinary record;

(4)  Past work record, including length of service, performance on the job, ability to get along with fellow workers, and dependability.

(5)  Effect of the offense upon the ability to perform at a satisfactory level and its effect upon the supervisor's confidence in the ability to perform assigned duties;

(6)  Consistency of the penalty with those imposed upon other employees for the same or similar offenses;

(7)  Consistency of the penalty with table of penalties;

(8)  Notoriety of the offense or its impact upon the reputation of the Department;

(9)  Clarity with which the employee was on notice of any rules that were violated in committing the offense, or had been warned about the conduct in question;

(10) Potential for the employee's rehabilitation;

(11) Mitigating circumstances surrounding the offense such as unusual job tension, personality problems, mental impairment, harassment, or bad faith, malice or provocation on the part of others involved in the matter; and

(12) Adequacy and effectiveness of alternative sanctions to deter such conduct in the future.


(CT:PER-1020;   10-05-2020)

Nature of Offenses



Penalties will generally fall within the range of a Letter of Reprimand to Removal except where indicated

Relationship With Public

1. Failure to obtain any required clearance of speech or article involving matters of official concern (see 3 FAM 4170)


2. Discourteous conduct to the public confirmed by an immediate supervisor's report of four such instances within a 1-year period (5 U.S.C. 7503(a))


3. Making unauthorized commitments for contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements


Security Regulations

4. Commission of a security infraction or violation (12 FAM 550)


5. Violation of security regulations relating to reporting contacts with, and/or restricting association with, certain foreign nationals


6. Violations of security regulations, guidelines, or instructions such as unauthorized disclosure or exposure of classified/administratively-controlled information, improper handling of classified/administratively controlled information


Outside Employment and Interests

7. Engaging in private business activities of a prohibited or unethical nature ( 3 FAM 4120)


8. Accepting of improper dual employment or dual compensation by the U.S. Government


9. Solicitation or acceptance by an employee of gratuity or gift which might reasonably be interpreted as tending to influence the performance of official duties


10. Violation of regulations relating to acceptance of gifts and decorations from foreign governments (3 FAM 4122)


11. Engaging, directly or indirectly, in financial or other transactions, which create real or apparent conflicts of interest


Political Activity

12. Improper political activity (5 U.S.C. 7321, et seq.)

Suspension or removal


13. Unexcused or unauthorized absence from the job during working hours or on any scheduled day of work (AWOL)


14. A pattern of frequent lateness for duty (excessive tardiness)


15. Improper use of sick leave


*Penalty depends on length and frequency of absences; removal may be appropriate for a first or second offense if the absence is prolonged. NOTE: A letter of leave restriction may be issued by an Executive Director or equivalent prior to formal disciplinary action. 

Conduct on the Job

16. Intoxication caused by alcohol or other drugs


17. Disruptive behavior; fighting; threatening or attempting to inflict bodily injury to another; engaging in dangerous horseplay; use of abusive or obscene language to or about another person; creating a disturbance which adversely affects efficiency or which reflects unfavorably on the agency


18. Making false or unfounded statements concerning another officer or employee of the U.S. Government


19. Safety (nonmotor vehicle):  violations of safety regulations, instructions or prescribed safe practices, including failure to report accident or injury


20.Safety (U.S. Government motor vehicle operation):  Violation of traffic laws, safety regulations or instructions, or safe driving practices, including failure to report accident or injury


21.U.S. Government Property:


a. Willful or negligent damage or defacement

30-day suspension to removal (31 U.S.C. 1349(b))

b. Willful misuse of or allowing the use of U.S. Government motor vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft for other than official purposes

22.Act of negligence or carelessness in performance of duty resulting in waste of public funds or inefficiency


23.Use or allowing uses of U.S. Government funds, property, or other resources for unofficial purposes or for private benefit


24. Use of U.S. Government equipment for prohibited activities, including gambling, advertising for personal gain, or viewing, downloading, storing, or transmitting, or copying materials that are sexually explicit, while on duty.  


25.Conducting personal affairs while in duty status, which negatively impacts on the efficiency of the Service


26. Sleeping, loafing, or willful idleness while on duty


27. Unauthorized maintenance or use of slush funds, gift funds, or other funds, which are undisclosed or unaccounted for


28. Failure to follow proper instructions


29. Insubordination


30. Misuse of U.S. Government credentials, diplomatic or official passports


31. Misuse, non-usage, and/or abuse of U.S. Government-sponsored or issued credit cards, or untimely payment or nonpayment of balance due, other than disputed charges


32. Improper use of official authority or information


33. Acceptance of voluntary services for U.S. Government contrary to statute

Appropriate administrative discipline including, when circumstances warrant, suspension without pay or removal ( 31 U.S.C. 1349(a))

34. Use or attempted use of influence or pressure to secure favor in appointment, transfer, advancement or retention of a relative in the agency


35. Violation of the "no strike" affidavit


36. Violation of merit principles or procedures with a demonstrable adverse effect on one or more persons


37. Harassing, threatening, or taking reprisal action against an employee as a result of or in anticipation of a grievance, appeals, complaint, or other exercise of rights


38. Misappropriation or misapplication of funds (see for example, 31 U.S.C. 1341 or 31 U.S.C. 1301)

Appropriate administrative discipline including, when circumstances warrant, suspension without pay or removal (see for example, 31 U.S.C. 1349)

39. Gifts to official supervisors¾soliciting contributions for gifts or presents to those in superior official positions, accepting gifts or presents from U.S. Government employees receiving lower salaries, or making donations as a gift or present to official supervisors (exception:  this does not prohibit a voluntary gift of nominal value or donation in a nominal amount made on a special occasion such as marriage, illness, retirement, or transfer (22 CFR 1203.735-202(e))

Removal (required by 5 U.S.C. 7351)

Personal Conduct or Character

40. Dereliction of management and supervisory duty by neglecting to carry out personnel management responsibilities, including failure to address conduct or performance problems, failure to complete required performance ratings or reviews, or failure to address a toxic workplace


41. Conduct by a senior official that demonstrates unsatisfactory leadership in relation to a security incident under review by an Accountability Review Board convened pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 4831.


42. Fraud (misrepresentation, falsification, or willful omission of material fact in connection with application, employment, or any record, report, investigation, or other proceeding)


43.. Conduct demonstrating untrustworthiness, unreliability, or use of poor judgment


44. Discrimination*


*As used in this table, discrimination refers to a specific act taken by an employee in the performance of his or her official duties, which discriminates against one or more individuals on the basis of race, sex, religion, color, age, national origin, handicapping condition, marital status, political affiliation, or sexual orientation

45. Refusal to answer appropriate interrogation or otherwise cooperate in properly authorized inquiry


46. Failure to pay a just financial obligation(s) in a proper and timely manner


47. Violation of laws, regulations, or policies relative to possession, use, or transportation of firearms or other dangerous weapons


48. Violation of laws, regulations, or policies relative to trafficking in persons and the procurement of commercial sex, any attempt to procure commercial sex, or the appearance of procuring of commercial sex


49. Sexual Assault (3 FAM 1700)


Miscellaneous Offenses

50. Failure to maintain records as required by 5 FAM 414.8


51. “Misconduct or unsatisfactory performance that significantly contributes to the serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property, or the serious breach of security in relation to a security incident, as found by an Accountability Review Board convened pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 4831.”