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Legal Insider: Changing Jobs with a Security Clearance

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

One of our major practice areas involves representing individuals in security clearance law matters.

We frequently speak to individuals who have issues or concerns relating to their security clearances and are seeking a new position elsewhere. We decided to put together some tips for employees that are changing positions in the context of holding a security clearance.

Tips for employees leaving one cleared position for another:

Leave Your Existing Employer on Good Terms

It is very important to leave your employer on good terms when taking a new position elsewhere. The better the departure, the less likely that you will have issues relating to your security clearance. Keep in mind that a former employer can still report security concerns about a former employee even when they have left.

I recommend the cordial departure approach with supervisors and the company and that the individual take every step possible to keep their former employer happy while you leave.

Know the Status of One’s Clearance Before You Go

It is important to know the status of your clearance before you leave. Too often we have seen a person accept a new position but not realize that their security clearance was out of scope or pending re-investigation, possibly leaving them without an active clearance when they leave.

There is also the possibility that a negative incident report is pending which is unknown at the time of departure. This is a major potential problem where an employee has left their position thinking that all is okay, but then later find out (usually after 2 weeks at the new job) that there is a problem with their security clearance which often leads to a termination.

Have the New Employer Check Your Status Before Leaving the Former Employer 

The individual leaving employment should confirm and re-confirm with the new employer’s security office the status of their security clearance.

This is especially the case where an individual maintains a security clearance in one system, i.e. the Department of Defense JPAS database and attempts to move to a position with an Intelligence Community agency (i.e. NSA, CIA) which is covered by a different database known as Scattered Castles. Sometimes these two databases do not sync well which can cause issues and delays.

Individuals Having Security Incidents Should Take it Slow Before they Leave

One of the most common problems that we come across is when an individual knows that they have an incident report but they still attempt to move to the new employer before their security issue is adjudicated and cleared.

If an individual knows that they have an incident report pending they are typically much better off by staying with their existing employer who will likely keep them employed while the matter is adjudicated. The new employer is far more likely to tell an individual, only after they have left their prior employment, that their clearance has an issue and that they can no longer hire them.

Special Transition Notes

When there is a difficult transition like when the employer is upset with an individual leaving their position for another job it is important to be very careful what the employee takes when with them when they leave the office. We have had numerous cases where an employee leaves one employer under less than favorable circumstances and then the employer claims loss of confidential information and reports the employee to clearance authorities.

In particular, an individual should be very careful in what they take from their computer or printed files from the office. If there is any question, get permission from the employer. Some clients have been reported for taking company emails, files or other information, even if not classified which results in significant security clearance issues.

Conclusion

If you need assistance with a security clearance issue, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com or securityclearancelawyer.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.

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