The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has overturned an agency’s demotion of a manager on charges of “negligence of duty” in hiring and promoting an employee.
According to a summary of the case by the MSPB, the agency charged that the manager knew that the employee did not have a college degree required for the positions. A hearing officer found that a degree was not required but upheld the agency’s action on grounds that the manager failed to investigate whether the employee qualified for the positions based on a combination of education and experience.
That decision was not challenged before the merit board and the case went directly to the court, which found that the ruling violated the manager’s right to due process. The court found that the decision exceeded the scope of the agency’s charge and relied on a new ground to sustain the penalty, and “as a result, the petitioner did not have an opportunity to meaningfully address the alleged negligence in failing to investigate whether the employee met the alternative qualification requirements for the positions during the agency proceedings,” according to the summary.
The court sent the case back to MSPB for reconsideration.