Threats Against Co-Workers Lead to Navy Employee's Removal

By on May 14, 2012 in Court Cases, News

Can a federal employee get in trouble by making statements to coworkers that they “better watch their backs,” ….”it ain’t no fun when the rabbit’s got the gun,”….that he was “getting gang members to come to Albany, GA to confront someone…just waiting for a name?” (Opinion p. 2)

As reported in a recent appeals court decision, a Financial Technician with the Marine Corps Logistics Command in Albany, Georgia found out that the answer to that question is “yes.” (Moore v. Department of the Navy, CAFC No. 2012-3009 (nonprecedential), 3/13/12)

After making these kinds of comments to coworkers, the Navy’s Criminal Investigation Division looked into the matter. The coworkers indicated they felt unsafe working with Moore. The result was a 10-day suspension without pay for “Conduct Unbecoming a Federal Employee and Insubordination.” (p. 2)

Before the suspension even took effect, Moore made some more “disruptive and threatening statements, accusing coworkers “of conspiring against him, of being cowards, and of interfering with his finances, and also threatening to interfere with their finances.” (p. 3) When Moore’s supervisor ordered him to stop making the comments, Moore not only did not comply, he “instead responded with laughter and disrespectful comments. …” (p. 3)

This time, Moore was placed on administrative leave while his more recent conduct was investigated.  Citing Moore’s actions as “causing a hostile work environment…” the report found:

“11 out of 13 of Mr. Larry Moore’s co-workers believe they are working in a hostile environment. All of the co-workers interviewed said Mr. Moore has been a disruption in the workplace. Some of the comments Mr. Moore has allegedly made show a total disrespect for supervisors…The overwhelming majority of the Branch feels anxious and believes things will be the same or worse if Mr. Moore returns to his current position.” (p. 3)

The agency kicked up the discipline and this time removed Moore. He appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board but it sustained the removal. So Moore took his case to the appeals court, offering several arguments as why the MSPB was wrong—there was no proof of a nexus between his conduct and the efficiency of the service (the court found there was sufficient proof of nexus); error on the part of the MSPB in admitting certain testimony (the court finds no error); harmful procedural error by the Navy (the court agrees with MSPB that the Navy followed all required procedures in removing Moore); failure of the MSPB to consider his argument that the Navy enforced an IRS tax levy on his salary (which the court found of no relevance); and so on. (pp. 7-11)

In short, the appeals court has now affirmed the actions of the Navy and the MSPB’s review and Moore remains off the payroll permanently.

Moore v. Navy (12-3009)

© 2016 Susan McGuire Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Susan McGuire Smith.

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About the Author

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.

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  1. Fed says:

    Good for management for having some balls and doing something about it. Most of them are so weak they do nothing (maybe try to gloss it over, thats al).

  2. Guest says:

    Gotta wonder how much time and money was wasted on this turkey.

  3. steve5656546346 says:

    Your average private sector tax payer does not get to file frivolous appeals through 3 levels. (Unless it is an EEO complaint, but the private sector files EEO complaints at a much lower level than the Civil Service.)

    • Guest says:

      I hope you’re not suggesting that federal workers are supportive of how long it took to fire this guy.
      90% of federal workers, I suspect, think our firing rules are absurd.

      • RetiredIRS says:

        Firing rules are absurd, you say. Let’s go back to the days before the Civil Service protections were in place, federal workers were fired and replaced every time a different political party came to power. Remember the “spoils system?”

        • HRGuy71 says:

          Obviously, no federal is advocating a return to the spoils system and your comment is apparently meant as a straw man to make an equally illogical argument. ChristianConvey is not arguing that the multi-level, multiple levels of appeals the federal workers have contributing to an effective, efficient, productive workplace. In fact, just the opposite. Every agency has people sitting in a corner, complaining or just not coming to work, because it is too much trouble; too expensive; too time-consuming, etc.. They are placed on a shelf and the agency hopes they will retire instead of spending the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to handle the appeals of some of these professional gripers.

          We do, however, have a new version of the spoils system going into effect. With federal employee unions strongly supporting Democrats on a national level, federal workers are becoming a target. Why should Republicans support people they think are out to have them lose their jobs? That wouldn’t make sense but the numerous proposals coming from the House to cut back on federal employee benefits does make sense. It is a matter of paying back those who are seen as supporting one party over another.

          • CAF says:

            There is a reason that unions support democratic candidates – they do so based on issues related to their own work.  The GOP has consistently for many years voted against the interests of Federal employees.  The Democrats do it less.  Many GOP representatives won’t even give federal employees a hearing or reply to their constituent letters.  Is is any wonder that they aren’t getting a lot of support from these employees?  In the last three years, Federal employees feel like they have a big target pasted on their backs.  They are being used to deflect citizen’s anger against Wall Street, Lobbyists, Contractor overpayments and inadequate protections from the financial world.  It is time to realize that most Federal employees just want to provide effective and efficient service to their fellow citizens!

          • RETVET03 says:

            I was going to reply but I couldn’t have said it any better than you did.

          • Super_Babysitter says:

            While I agree with your assessment these are short term. The current administration while seeming to be for us is causing long term problems. 

            I will vote the current administration out. I will vote the next one out if they don’t do better.

            The country has many long term issues that our politicians are not dealing with. Most seem to be only concerned with reelection. This is a sad statement for our country.

  4. JG4 says:

    hmmm this sounds like some behavior exhibited on these boards….

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