MSPB: Federal Employee's removal mitigated to 30-day suspension

The Full MSPB issued a decision reversing the removal of an employee of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Suggs v. VA, 2010 MSPB 99 (June 1, 2010).

Initially, the VA removed the employee for charges of disrespectful conduct, among other things. The employee had previously received a 3-day suspension for failing to follow instructions and inappropriate conduct. The Suggs decision is a good primer for explaining what the MSPB can – and should – consider in deciding “disrespectful conduct” cases. Here are a couple of those factors:

1) For cases where there is a single charge of disrespectful conduct, removal might be upheld when there are multiple specifications, and the conduct involves abusive or obscene language, or physical action.

2) Where there are numerous mitigating factors, including evidence that the supervisor contributed to the conflict by raising his/her voice, the employee had a medical condition impacting his or her actions, longevity of civil service, and recent positive evaluations, mitigation is a very possible outcome.

It is quite possible that Suggs will be a very important case for Federal employees. Over the past 8-10 years, Agencies have successfully established that disrespectful conduct means whatever the supervisor wants it to mean when he or she testifies before the MSPB. Suggs is a big first step in restoring some sort of objectivity and balance to the Federal Workplace, so that employees can speak their mind without fear of a supervisor over-reacting (or worse, using a discussion with an employee to get rid of a disabled worker, a Whistle-blower, or any other employees in protected groups).

You should consider contacting an attorney with experience in handling MSPB appeals to the MSPB or a lawyer with experience representing Federal employees in MSPB and EEOC complaints of violations of the ADA and Rehab Acts and/or the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA).

No post on this website is legal advice, is meant to be legal advice, and certainly does not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Information is power, and we are providing this information to give you, the federal employee, with some power. This information is not widely or easily accessible to Federal Employees.

It is best to consult with a lawyer familiar with Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) appeals to discuss the facts and law of your particular case. If you believe that your Agency has improperly disciplined or removed you, contact an attorney familiar with MSPB appeals and federal employee EEOC complaints.