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Liability Insurance for Federal Employees and Contractors

Are Federal Employees Subject to Investigations and Personal Capacity Lawsuits in the Course and Scope of Employment?

Turn on the news. Professional liability exposure has increased exponentially over the last decade. Federal employee professional liability insurance is recommended, and even partially reimbursed for some, for a reason. There are three areas of exposure for federal employees - and three areas of protection offered by PLI:

  1. Administrative Investigations / Disciplinary Proceedings:

    Including but not limited to:
    • OIG Investigations
    • OSC (Whistleblower Retaliation)
    • OPR/OIA Investigations & Other Professional Misconduct Proceedings
    • Congressional Oversight Investigations / Hearings
    • HR Investigations / Management Inquiries
    • Internal Disciplinary Boards
    • MSPB Appeals
    • EEO Complaints (Named as RMO) Disciplinary Proceedings
    • State Bar & Medical Board Investigations

  2. Civil Lawsuits / Personal Capacity Lawsuits / Bivens Actions
    • You Can be Sued
    • You Can be Denied DOJ Representation
    • You Can be Held Liable for a Judgment

  3. Criminal Investigations / Proceedings

    These are allegations of violations of the criminal code - there is very little a federal employee can do wrong and not have it be a violation of the criminal code. When a criminal investigation runs parallel to an administrative investigation, the matter invokes complicated constitutional issues and you must have an attorney. Some examples of common criminal investigations involving federal employees are due to:
    • Conflict of Interest Statutes Where Intent is Not a Prerequisite to Prove the Crime
    • Release of Privacy Act or Other Statutorily Protected Information
    • Allegations of Misuse or Abuse of Authority

Your exposure in these areas varies based on your position and sometimes the agency you are employed by. While the Department of Justice will represent the named federal employee in most civil suits (and the employee will have some level of immunity to avoid personal liability), this is not always the case - even when the employee is acting within his or her scope of employment. For example, personal capacity suits are more likely to be brought against federal agents and officers given their respective law enforcement responsibilities and powers. These lawsuits usually involve an alleged 1st, 4th, 5th or 8th Amendment violation – commonly referred to as a Bivens action – or some other constitutional tort arising out of an enforcement action. The civil provision of the federal employee professional liability insurance policy provides both defense and indemnification (pays damages) if the agent or officer is held personally liable.

Contact us for exposure-specific information. If you would like to schedule a webinar or a Q&A session for your employees or coworkers, please contact us at We would be happy to provide specific exposure information associated with your agency's mission or specific federal employment positions.

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