The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently
adopted the Merit Systems Protection Board’s approach to
determine whether removing an employee for rejecting a
reassignment is proper.
The case arose when a Mine Safety and Health Administration
coalmine inspector was removed for failing to accept a
reassignment. After the Board affirmed the removal, he
appealed to the Federal Circuit, which adopted the Board’s
method of determining whether the removal is proper, and
endorsed the approach as the law of the Federal Circuit.
Under the new law of the Circuit, the court first
determines whether the reassignment “will promote the
efficiency of the service,” which also requires a finding
that the agency’s decision to reassign is “based on
legitimate management considerations in the interest of
the service.” The court will find the reassignment valid
if the decision is based on a legitimate management
reason and the employee receives adequate notice.
Second, if that is established, the employee must present
evidence that the reassignment has “no solid or substantial
basis in personnel practice or principle” to move the case
forward. If that is established, the court may conclude
the decision to reassign is either arbitrary or capricious
or “an improper effort to pressure” the employee to retire.
If the employee cannot, the court may sustain the removal.
In this case, the court sustained the removal after finding
the agency advanced a legitimate management consideration
for deciding to reassign the inspector, and found the
inspector failed to present evidence that the decision to
remove him was arbitrary or based on improper agency
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