How to Respond when an OIG Agent Wants to Talk
You’re sitting at your desk, diligently doing the people’s work as a federal employee, when you learn that an OIG agent wants to talk to you. Perhaps your supervisor tells you that the agent wants to get into contact; perhaps the agent sends you an email asking to meet; or maybe the agent just shows up at your workplace or calls your office number directly.
What do you do?
First, take a breath. People make bad decisions when they’re stressed. And having an agent reach out to you will make your blood pressure go up. Even if the agent is standing over your desk and asking you to talk, it is a very rare situation where you need to make a decision immediately.
And, often, the worst decisions a person can make about whether to talk to an agent come from responding in the heat of the moment. Take a minute to collect yourself. If you think it’s best, tell the agent that you would prefer to talk to them the next day, or to schedule a time later in the week. Give yourself some space to think about what’s best for you.
An OIG agent is a law enforcement officer. OIG agents carry a gun and a badge. As with any decision to talk to an agent or cop, you should think carefully about whether it’s in your best interest.
This video may help you think through that decision.
Second, decide whether you want to talk to the agent. Sometimes you don’t have a choice – under certain circumstances an OIG agent can make you talk to them, but that can be a burdensome process on their end.
If the agent has the ability to make you talk to them or else get fired, they have to give you a different kind of warning at the start of the interview. If you decide to go ahead and talk to the agent, listen carefully to what they have to say first. Make sure you understand the different kinds of warnings they’re giving and what your rights are.
This page may help you with the different kinds of law enforcement warnings from OIG agents.
If the agent is giving you a warning, that generally means you’re already at the start of the interview – and you’ll feel pressured to keep the interview going. But if the request to speak to the agent comes from someone else, such as your supervisor, you can ask that person whether you have to talk to the agent. Or you can ask whether declining to talk will have bad consequences for your job.
Third, think about hiring a lawyer. Here’s a page with some information about what to think about when you consider whether to hire a lawyer, and who to hire.
You may also want to watch this short video about hiring a lawyer for a federal investigation.
If there’s a bigger problem (maybe this interview is just the start of a broader investigation), then getting a lawyer in sooner rather than later would be a very good idea.
Finally, now that you know an OIG agent is asking questions, you know there’s likely a federal investigation. Whatever you do, don’t lie to an agent, don’t tell someone else to tell a lie to an agent, and don’t destroy any evidence.
This video can walk you through what not to do if there’s an investigation.
You can relax a little knowing that you can protect yourself by taking action – smart action which is the product of a measured decision rather than just a pressured response to a well-trained cop. Step back from the situation, take a breath and weigh your options. Decide whether you want to talk to the investigator, and take it from there. Getting a lawyer involved will probably help things go more smoothly, and it can be comforting to know your situation is in capable hands. Just take your time, get some space, and make sure you’re doing what’s in your best interest.