Federal Manager's Daily Report

A recent court ruling “highlights the importance” of being specific in settlement agreements between agencies and employees, MSPB has said, noting that even though settlement rates have declined slightly in recent years, nearly half of cases that come before it that are not dismissed on procedural grounds result in settlements.

“With so many settlement agreements happening, appellants and agency representatives should take care when drafting their provisions,” it said in a new publication referring to a court ruling involving a settlement with no specified ending date.

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The case involved a settlement agreement that provided for the employee—who alleged that his workplace had become hostile after he made whistleblowing disclosures—to be transferred to a different duty station with a compressed work schedule and paid commuting time. After 16 years the agency moved to end that arrangement.

A hearing officer and later the Federal Circuit appeals court upheld that action, noting that if an agreement is silent regarding its duration, MSPB policy is that the terms were meant to last for a “reasonable” period, and that 16 years met that test.

“The lesson from this case is that when developing settlement agreements, it is important for each party to know what they want to achieve and to specify that as clearly as possible, including an end date. Without such specificity, we leave it to others to determine what is reasonable,” the MSPB said.

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