Liability and legal defense for acts, errors & omissions of federal employees which are committed or arise out of the course and scope of employment including but not limited to:
Federal employees in all types of jobs and performing all kinds of federal functions can be sued personally by private persons or other entities for alleged violations of their constitutional and common law rights. These types of suits are more likely, however, to be brought against managers or those employees working with the public or making decisions on behalf of or in the interest of the public.
While the Department of Justice (DOJ) will represent the named IRS employee in most of these and other civil suits (and the employee will have some level of immunity to avoid personal liability), this is not always the case. There are lawsuits filed against IRS employees and managers in which legal counsel must be hired and for which a federal employee can be held personally liable. Read about real world scenarios.
The relevant legal concepts and doctrines in the area of federal employee liability are complicated; we do not attempt to provide a complete analysis of them here—what we want you to know is when and how the FEDS liability policy protects you from potential civil liabilities.
The FEDS policy basically protects you from civil exposure in two major ways:
(1) Legal Defense: The FEDS policy will provide you with an attorney to defend in the event that that the DOJ makes a determination that it is not “in the interest of the United States” to represent the employee (a discretionary DOJ decision). This can occur notwithstanding that the employee was clearly acting within the scope of his/her employment. DOJ has taken the position that it is not in the interest of the U.S. to defend an employee where the suit involves unauthorized physical contact, use of inappropriate language, and other similar inappropriate or unauthorized conduct. Should you find yourself facing a civil suit (or Bivens action) or criminal charge without DOJ representation, defending yourself can run $25,000 to well over $100,000 in legal fees; and
(2) Pays Damages: The FEDS policy provides indemnity protection at either the one or two million dollar limit should an employee be found liable for which the agency will not indemnify. An employee can be held liable and be forced to pay the judgment even when the DOJ is defending the case. In other words, if DOJ defends and loses, the employee can still be liable.
For a more detailed discussion on how our liability coverage interacts with such laws and concepts as the Federal Torts Claims Act, Absolute and Qualified Immunity Doctrines, common law and constitutional torts and how these concepts affect your exposures and potential liability we have compiled a reading room of relevant articles and more detailed information.
Final words on civil exposure and in the interest of full disclosure: Only a small percentage of the civil lawsuits filed against federal employees result in a situation in which the federal employee must provide for their own defense and/or result in the federal employee having to pay a personal judgment. If you are the one who falls through the cracks, the losses could be substantial. For this reason, civil protection - in addition to the administrative and disciplinary benefits - is available for federal employees at an affordable cost through professional liability insurance.