A carrier got in trouble with his agency when a woman customer on his mail route accused him of pushing his way into her house and kissing her. (Cabrera v. United States Postal Service, C.A.F.C. No. 2009-3050 (nonprecedential), 6/8/2009)
The court’s opinion recounts the facts as relayed by the accuser. She claimed that Cabrera stopped his truck and crossed the street to personally deliver mail to her. When she answered the door, Cabrera handed her the mail, stepped into her house, pushed her behind the door, grabbed her and forcibly kissed her, tongue and all.
The woman pushed him away and demanded that he leave. Cabrera handed her a condom and as he walked away he told the woman he would see her tomorrow. However, a few minutes later he returned, told her she was "looking good," and said he would "definitely" see her the next day. (Opinion p. 2)
The woman later related the incident to a neighbor. She also tried to get in touch with her husband and told an employee at his family’s place of business about the incident. The woman’s brother-in-law found out about it, called the police, and tracked Cabrera down. Meanwhile, the woman reported the incident to a Post Office customer service manager. (pp. 2-3)
Post Office officials and the police descended upon the woman’s house where the brother-in-law and Cabrera were discussing the incident. (p. 3)
Cabrera’s version of events was quite different. He claims he did deviate from his route to cross the street to the woman’s house. However, he insists he stayed in her yard and handed her the mail while she stood on her front porch. He claims he did not kiss her, did not enter her house, and only talked to her about a piece of misdirected mail. (p. 3)
The Postal Service fired Cabrera for unacceptable conduct and deviation from his postal route.
He appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board. After a 2-day hearing, the Board judge found the accuser’s testimony more credible than Cabrera’s, pointing out that her testimony was specific and detailed as well as consistent with statements she had made to the Sheriff’s Office and the postal service supervisor. The judge therefore sustained the unacceptable conduct charge. (p. 4)
As for the deviation from route charge, Cabrera admitted that he had done so when he crossed the street. He argued that this is a common practice for mail carriers and results in better customer service. The administrative judge did not buy this argument and sustained the charge. (p. 6)
The MSPB upheld Cabrera’s removal. He appealed to the Federal Circuit.
The court, finding no error and no reason to overturn the MSPB decision, has affirmed the agency’s removal of Cabrera. (p. 10)
As is so often the case, it was an uphill battle for Cabrera to attack the administrative judge’s witness credibility determinations. In this case of "he said, she said," the administrative judge found the woman’s testimony to be more credible. The appeals court not surprisingly deferred to those credibility determinations. Cabrera stays fired.
Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.