Is It Worth Putting Your Job at Risk for $25?

By on January 29, 2013 in Court Cases, Current Events with 79 Comments

The appeals court has upheld the firing of a USPS supervisor—a 27-year employee of the USPS–who used a $25 Publix gift card taken from a greeting card lying in undeliverable mail that had been stored in a locked cart. (Mosley v. USPS (2012-3182) (CAFC No. 2012-3182, 1/15/13, nonprecedential)

Here are the rather remarkable facts of this case as reported in the court’s opinion.

When an employee noticed a gift card missing from undeliverable mail, he reported it to Mr. Mosley (yes, the very same Mr. Mosley who ended up being fired for taking the card). Mosley in turn told the employee to report it to Mosley’s boss. This triggered an investigation by the USPS Office of Inspector General. The OIG tracked the card and found a videotape of Mosley using it at a Publix store. When they questioned him, Mosley first claimed he found the gift card inside a greeting card with his name written on a sticky note attached to the gift card. Then he changed his story to say he found lying on his desk the greeting card and gift card in a plain white envelope with his name written on the outside. Then he denied he had ever said he found the gift card with a sticky note with his name on it. He added that he had displayed the greeting card on his desk along with another card from his co-workers that had a gift card from Home Depot. Finally, he claimed he had talked to another Postal supervisor about the Publix gift card and she had told him to keep it because his name was on it.

Apparently not convinced by Mosley’s story, the agency proposed his removal for improper conduct and making false statements to investigators.

Mosley ended up pleading no contest in a related criminal charge of petty theft and got 6-month’s probation and a fine. USPS removed him.

On appeal, the administrative judge found the testimony of the agency investigator and Mosley’s coworkers to be credible. The AJ found Mosley’s demeanor was evasive when testifying, he showed no remorse, and his explanations for how he came by the gift card not credible. The AJ held that removal was permissible in this case because the agency rightfully had lost trust in him due to his false statements. Further, as the full Merit Systems Protection Board noted, it had “long viewed any misconduct involving interference with the mail as going directly to the heart of the Postal Service’s mission.” (Opinion pp. 2-5)

Mosley tried to persuade the appeals court of his innocence, arguing among other things that there had been $55 in cash in the undeliverable mail that he could have taken without USPS being able to trace it, so why would he steal a gift card? He also argued that the gift card had such little value ($25) that removal was way out of line for a 27-year employee with a “largely unblemished” record. (pp. 8-9)

Unfortunately for Mosley the appeals court has upheld the MSPB and the agency.

Mr. Mosley stays fired.

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

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. Jeff_all_in says:

    this is 99% of Mang. at the post office they know how to do nothing but lie for them self 

  2. retired bob says:

    Just one of many——-not very many with morals and character now days!

  3. Donmcconahay says:

    Corruption in management all over the place costing millions of dollars and they are going hard after thisguy?

  4. kat01lynn says:

    That was serious pay back for Fred.  How about the supervisors that delete clock rings to prevent from paying the empolyees? How about the supervisors that charge the employee AWOL instead of sick leave?  Oh, yea that is handle through the grievance process to prevent any trouble.

  5. Kat01lynn says:

    That punishment was too serious for Fred.  How about the supervisors that delete the employees time to prevent from paying them?  How about the supervisors that charge the employee AWOL for sick leave?  Yea I have the answer to my questions.  It’s handle through the grievance process to prevent them getting in any trouble.

  6. Kat01lynn says:

    That was serious punishment for Fred.  How about the supervisors that hit the delete button on clock rings to prevent from paying you the right amount of pay?How about  the supervisors that charge you with AWOL after calling in sick instead of paying you sick leave? Oh yea the grievance step one solves those pay issue.

  7. Gabriel says:

    An aribtrator recently ruled that a custodian was to be returned to his postion in a Pittsburgh plant after he was discharged for taking items out of undeliverable/waste mail (coin set, zip drive, ect).   The thief didn’t even show up at the arbitration hearing.  The arbitrator ruled that this type of conduct warrants a 30 day suspension and handed him 50,000 in back-pay.   Does anybody else find this ruling to be contrary to  public interest?

  8. Johnson Adams says:

    Hard to believe the supervisor got axed for this. In my 30 years I’ve seen many a craft co-worker do this and never lose their jobs.

  9. Privateye20002000 says:

    When tempted ask yourself is this an opportunity to give up alot for a little.

  10. RETIRED! says:

    This is in rely to GrannyBunny you seem to post alot.  You claim you are 73 still working for the government.  Where in the hell do you work that you can post all hours on comments.,  everytime I turn around you are posting.  I really think YOU NEED TO BE INVESIGATED for usuage of federal time.  I am retired so I can do what the hell I want to do — but, you post you are 73 and still working.  and still any hours during government time are posting.  Must be nice to be collecting a daMN  pay check — probably doing nothing but Think you are — go home  it is time for you to be put out!!

    • grannybunny says:

      Dear Retired:  Congratulations on your retirement; wish I could afford to join you.  I’m not yet 73, but — God willing – plan to retire at the end of the year in which I attain that milestone.  At my workplace, we get 2 15-minutes breaks per day, plus a 30-minute lunch break, during which I — frequently — post my comments.  I believe in turning in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay — well, OK, my pay is pretty pathetic — and do so.  Our Pay for Performance goals are based on production, and I routinely far exceed my goals.  In my latest evaluation, my “incredible work ethic” was praised.  I did not take a single day of annual leave last year.  You are right to be concerned about government waste, but I — honestly — do not believe that I am the problem.

  11. Just Saying says:

    Stupid really is as stupid does.

  12. ImUneek says:

    Who’s to say this was his first time doing this?  He just got caught.    This is just one job that will not be filled since they are losing so much money.   The fact that he lied and kept changing his lie seems to be his undoing.  If he lied about this how long what else has he lied about?

  13. HR Manager (Retired) says:

    Stealing is one of those offenses that the first time an employee is caught it can, and usually does results, in firing.  The chances of having the firing overturned are, at best, slim.  And, when the decision is overturned it is usually because of a procedural error on the part of the agency and not because the punishment did not fit the crime. The case law library on this type of case is huge.  A side bar:  In my 35 plus year in the HR business it has been my experience that the majority of employees caught stealing take items which they could have easily afforded to buy since they were very inexpensive.  So yes, believe it or not some employees do feel putting their jobs at risk for $25 is worth it. 

    • Just Saying! says:

      Just take a look at work — you bring something in of your own and someone decides to lift it and when you come back to your work station it is gone.  Theft in the office  happens all the time.  If it is not nailed down it walks.  Hell you may be out of the office on sick leave for a couple of days and find your damn chair gone.  I have come back into the office and my desk has been ramsacked like what were they looking for — but, yet the culprits get by with it day by day –  co-workers have even posted notices in their cubicle — but that does no deter these 5 finger discount people on taking what they want when they want.  Hell before I retired I had hawks wanting to know what I was taking and what was going –  I dared anyone of them to take anything before I walked out the door — but believe me as I was leaving with my $30++ humuidfier — they wanted to know about anything I else was taking –  which do to travel constraints — they all had a field day.  The things I brought in was due to health issues — like  fans during the oppressive heat — and my air purifiers so I could breath — all because we work in conditions that are not healthy — and do not talk to me about EPA standards in Fed Buildings — that is a total   joke.  Now that I am retired I do not have to put up with all the bullshit — and and believe or not my constant coughing in these government building has stopped now that I am retired!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • HR Manager (Retired) says:

        Where in the world did you work?  Luckily the workplace and co workers you describe are nothing like what I experienced in by 35 plus years of Fed’l service and my years of working in pvt industry.  Hopefully you reported and documented the thefts to your supervisors and those responsible for security within your agency so that they could take the necessary action.  It is always sad to hear that someone had such a poor workplace experience as you describe whether the experience be in the Fed’l service or pvt industry. 

  14. marilyn2010 says:

    Stealing on-the-job is a one-way ticket out the door. There are many processes in place to make sure theft doesn’t happen and this article shows just how serious USPS is about theft.

    As for going broke — The Postal Service processed and delivered 213
    billion pieces of mail in 2006. In 2011 this total fell to 168 billion. And it adds an average of about 2,300 delivery
    points to its network every day. Add to this the mandate to pre-fund retiree health care costs — something no other federal agency does — and it’s no wonder they are having trouble.

    Plus, the Postal Service receives no tax dollars for
    operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to
    fund its operations.

    Congress needs to stop sitting on its hands and approve five-day delivery and not require USPS to pre-fund the health care.

  15. marilyn2010 says:

    Wait a minute. The Postal Service has 500 thousand employees and theft is a one-way ticket out the door. There are many processes in place to make sure theft doesn’t happen, and when it does, employees are caught and fired.

    The Postal Service is going broke because they are losing business.
    USPS processed and delivered 213 billion pieces of mail in 2006; in 2011 this total fell to 168 billion. And, it adds about 2,300 delivery points to its network every day.

    Add to this that the Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operation and the congressional mandate it pre-pay medical insurance for its retirees — something no other federal agency is required to do — and something has to give.

    I hope Congress with stop sitting on its hands and help the Postal Service help itself by at least approving five day delivery and not requiring the pre-pay of medical insurance..

    • TheRealOldFed says:

      It’s not just the loss of volume. Even with that, if not for the $5.5 BILLION dollars a year required by the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” that was passed several years ago, requiring the prefunding of health benefits for possible retirees 75 years in the future in 10 years (for people who *might* be a postal employee but not even born yet), the USPS would still have made a profit every year. It’s just another money grab by Congress. They take the 5.5 BILLION DOLLARS a year and spend it on pet projects. It’s listed as “income” under the Transportation section of the Federal Budget. It’s not being set aside for the purported purpose, it’s being siphoned off just like Congress does with Social Security funds.

  16. Snl626 says:

    Folks, you just have no idea of how the U.S. Postal System compare with other post offices in other countries.  I WOULD LOVE to have a scintilla, even just 1%, of the honesty/security that the U.S. Post Office has, compared to my country’s post office.  If I send a mail to my relatives in my home country, and it looks like there might be something in it worth stealing (documents, personal information, money, etc), kiss it goodbye. 

    • candygirl7 says:

       You are absolutely correct!  My late mother used to send packages overseas to relatives in Poland. At the time, American made jeans (Levi’s and Wranglers) were very coveted items. Some of her packages that were received were broken open, no jeans inside. The USPS treats theft very seriously.

  17. candygirl7 says:

     Sadly, this very same thing happened in the mail facility I retired from—-but it was a female supervisor they caught stealing gift cards that were supposed to be used for employee incentive rewards. I just don’t understand it myself—total lack of judgement but let’s remember, we are all human and we are subject to temptation and careless thoughts.

    • RetiredFed08 says:

      Thoughts are OK, but when they turn into actions that’s when one is in real trouble.  Mosley deserved what he received.

  18. Tbone39 says:

    At DOS Passport Services ethics and honesty is always reinforced.  Be it money, stamps or anything of value, it is always documented on the paperwork, a supervisor is made aware of it and the item is always returned to the applicant.

  19. a good guy says:

    One word: Shmuck!  After so many years with the USPS, and so many years of working his way up to his trusted position in management, he deserves it!  I’m glad to see this example of where it’s not just the lower paid slobs who get nailed while the white shirts get away with it.

  20. S-cat says:

    A thief is a thief is a thief all day long.  If you steal something that does not belong to you and get caught, there are consequences.  Especially at work for an agency that has to work under assumptions of public trust.  It’s attitudes like his why the USPS loses BILLIONS a year.  Get rid of this obsolete agency and STOP propping it up.  Save some trees.

    • grannybunny says:

      Actually, USPS’ losses are not due to its employees, but to Congress, which has bled off all the profits and taken the Postal Service from being debt-free and profitable — as recently as 2006 — to the very brink of bankruptcy.

    • Old Fed says:

      It’s obvious you have no clue. The USPS has losses mainly due to the 5.5 BILLION DOLLARS a year “prefunding” of benefits for employees not even born yet (75 years in the future, to be funded in 10 years) requirement that Congress snuck in a few years ago literally at midnight. This money is then used by Congress as yet another slush fund. If not for this requirement, that no other Government Agency or Private Business has to suffer under, the USPS would have made money every year. It’s another money grab, and Congress has used the USPS as its own private Cash Cow for many years.

    • Brookyln says:

      It’s a “man-made” crisis  – intentionally – created by Congress.  Seems some were upset because this agency had one too many minority employees who happened to Vote for the ‘Other’ party too often.   Congress wanted to shake up things a little and they certainly have done that while on their frequent vacations and do “no work” selves.

      No Business would ever take and put 50-years of Retirement benefits a way in advance!  That’s what Congress has required of the USPS.   My God, those employees haven’t been born yet!!!!    It gives Congress an excuse to take it apart without regards to the real impact on the American people, ie: Rural America perhaps and many Small Business!   Hum, too bad for the working people!

      Oh yes, that thief should have been fired for stealing and lying about it!  Wasn’t worth it after all?  : (

  21. JG4 says:

    Easiest way to get fired in the USPS? Hit somebody or steal, even if you are taking that sample flash light in the trash, you will get fired….  

    • TheRealOldFed says:

      You are so right. They take “sanctity of the mail” very seriously. 

      • JG4 says:

        Worked over 30 years with the USPS, it is the only agency where if there is a penny on the floor it gets turned in to a supervisor…. security, sanctity, and timely delivery of the mail is a top priority…

        • TheRealOldFed says:

          Worked there 18 years, and although I work for another Agency now, I still have great respect for the USPS and what they do with the constraints they have. 

        • Grncat says:

          DOS Passport Services applies the same principle, honesty at work.  If you find money, stamps, anything of value no matter the amount, it must be documented on the paperwork and turned into a supervisor.  It is always returned with a passport.

        • formerIRS says:

          A penny (or any other piece of money on the floor) , I wouldn’t pick it up at all. I simply “wouldn’t see it”. Even if I turned it over I would probably be drawn into some major internal affairs matter and, even if innocent, someone would somehow find fault with something I did (or failed to do) that wasn’t 100% properly by the book. Even if I were completely honest and cleared, who wants to deal with the bullshit.

          • JG4 says:

            apparently you have no clue… nor will you

          • formerIRS says:

            I stand by what I said. In my agency is seems to be “No good deed goes unpunished’. The best thing to do is not to become involved unless it is a matter of someone’s immediate health or safety. One time where I worked, internal security “axccidently” dropped a $10 bill on the floor, as part of an entrapment mission, to see what anyone would do with it. Well, one employee picked it up, and in good faith, put it aside and  called someone in authority. They then tried to suspend him because hem didn’t follow every step to the letter cofrrectly, by not contacting then right person. There wasn’t a dishonest bone in his body. Lesson: ignore things like this. Leave well enough alone. By the way, he got off but only because of the involvement of the union.

  22. Jonah B. says:

    Laudable. But who in the TSA gets fired for ripping off my point and shoot camera from my luggage?

  23. enigma1083 says:

    I have always trusted the USPS and this story reaffirms my trust.

    • Retired Benefits Specialist says:

      You make some good points.  The mail truck has to drive a mile down the road to one isolated mailbox, maybe to delive one letter or one piece of junk mail.

      Why five days, when two or three would do just fine?  The average household gets a few pieces of first class mail a day.  Let some areas of town get their mail on Mondays and Thursdays, and the others get theirs on Tuesday and Friday.  It would cut manhours, mileage/wear on the vehicles, and save a fortune of money on gasoline.  

      • remkmm says:

        Each day, six days a week, letter carriers travel four million miles toting an average of 563 million pieces of mail, reaching every doorstep of our individual homes and workplaces in every single community in America. All for 46 cents. Put a 46-cent stamp on a letter, drop it in the mailbox, and our nation’s postal workers will move your missive across town or clear across country usually within three days or sooner.  According to the postal officials, 42 percent of first-class mail is currently delivered the following day, while 27 percent is delivered in two days. About 31 percent arrives in three days and less than 1 percent is delivered in four to five days. Also, remember that the Postal Service delivers nearly TWICE as much to more than TWICE the number of delivery points than it did since passage of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, WITH 11 percent fewer employees.

        • Retired Benefits Specialist says:

          Think what garbage collection would cost if the trucks had to drive by every house, every day, even if there wasn’t enough garbage to be worth picking up???  They only come by once or twice a week in most areas.
          The same thing could/would/SHOULD work for the mail.  I would be very happy to accept deliver two or three times a week, as a way to get the Postal Service back on sound financial footing.
          Keep up the good work.  Just drive doown my street half the number of days each week!

          • grannybunny says:

            You are absolutely entitled to your opinion and to freely express it.  However, as you may know, there are also alot of people, especially in rural areas, concerned over the Postal Service’s proposal to eliminate Saturday delivery, saying that going the entire weekend — 3 days if there’s a Monday holiday — without mail delivery is too long.

          • Saggit says:

            Lots of people work-at-home or rural areas or small towns who depend on the Post Office for their income or medication or whatever.  This isn’t about your Street, but the impact on people’s livelihood.   Maybe you’d see thinks differently if it would affect you and your family in a negative way.

            Besides it was Congress who voted the Post Office into this financial nightmare for putting aside 50 years worth of funding away in advance.  No business can operate or survive like that and yet Congress had done this to the American people.

    • Scooter says:

      There are several USDA gov’t employees that steal every day! Whether it be a timesheet where .50 is annotated for lunch and the employee actually takes 1.0 hour lunch; use of gov’t vehicle for private use; use of gov’t computer for home business; not reporting extra income for that business on taxes in violation of county, state, and federal taxes; thus, tax evasion.

  24. LaborAttorney says:

    It wasn’t the crime, it was the cover up that made him unsuitable for employment. 

    • JG4 says:

      No it was the crime and the cover up… 

    • grannybunny says:

      Actually, it was the crime, plus his pathetic attempts to cover it up, leading to the implied charge, “too stupid to be a Postal employee.”

      • formerIRS says:

        If it were the crime only and not the cover up, he may (but not necessarily)  have kept his job, although with a stiff suspension without pay. The cover up made firing a slam dunk. He is licky he wasn’t prosecuted for mail tampering.

        • grannybunny says:

          Stealing a valuable item out of the mail is a fireable offense, and I wouldn’t make a distinction between that and mail tampering.

          • formerIRS says:

            I never said it WASN’T mail tampering. I said he was lucky he did not get prosecuted for it (mail tampering). I can’t understand why they did not pursue a criminal case.

          • Old Fed says:

            The “regular” US Postal Service doesn’t handle criminal cases. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigates these cases, and they forward requests for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney. The U.S. Attorney decides which cases it will prosecute, and generally only prosecute cases of higher value than this. And, this was mail theft and not mail tampering, and theft is more serious. I worked for the Postal Inspection Service for several years.

          • TheRealOldFed says:

            The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t prosecute criminal cases. They refer them to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who investigates these cases, and they forward requests for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney. The U.S. Attorney decides which cases it will prosecute, and generally only prosecute cases of higher value than this. So either the USPIS declined to refer the case for prosecution ($25 value too low) or the U.S. Attorney declined to prosecute. And, this was mail theft and not mail tampering, and theft is more serious. I worked for the Postal Inspection Service for several years.

          • grannybunny says:

            I think now the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is handling all the internal crimes — that is, involving Postal employees — and the Inspection Service does the external ones, where non-Postal people are accused of crimes involving the mail.  In this case, the OIG investigated.  But, your analysis is spot on.  Since the gift card was taken out of undeliverable mail, there may have been a problem locating the ultimate victim.

        • HR Manager (Retired) says:

          No, the act of covering up something is not by itself a firing offense – a reprimand or, at the most, a short suspension yes but not firing.  In this case the act of stealing was the firing offense.  Most, if not all, agencies have disciplinary  table of offenses in which they outline what punishment the agency considers appropriate for a particular offense.  Stealing is one of a handful of offenses for which firing is considered appropriate as a first offense punishment.  Covering up an offense is not normally  a firing offense unless national security is involved.     

    • ImUneek says:

      Theft is not a crime?   He stole that card and used it!  PO employees make more than some of the average gov employees anyway and they pay next to  no health insurance.   He STOLE the card and got caught.    I know if I had done the same thing I would be let go.

    • HR Manager (Retired) says:

      The crime, stealing, is what made him unsuitable for employment.  Yes, the cover up contributed to this determination but in the end the decision was based on the theft.  Without the theft charge there would not have been any basis to take an action. 

  25. IcekingZ says:

    Probably one of thousands who got caught.

    • grannybunny says:

      Actually, your estimate is wildly in excess of the actual number of Postal employees who get busted for stealing, which is in the hundreds, out of a workforce of over half a billion employees.  There is zero tolerance for messing with the sanctity of the mail.  USPS is — year-in-and-year-out — consistently ranked as the most trusted government agency and in the top 5 of the most trusted businesses in America.

    • Danl_P says:

      I think you means the only one caught of the thousands who steal. I think you are factually wrong as well as linguistically in error.

      • IcekingZ says:

        I think you means? That looks like another linguistic error. No, I meant that thousands are probably detected and not acted upon. Also, here’s is a link to a web site that does identify thousands of cases. It’s apparently widespread.


        • Mike L. says:

          The bigger the organization the bigger the possibility of more thieves. In just about every org or business there are thieves, not just the post office. 99% or more of postal employees are very hard working, honest employees. The biggest part of employee dishonesty within the USPS lies with postal management lying against their own employees for the sake of themselves trying to get bigger bonuses by trying to make their lower level workers into hard core abused slaves, and I do mean them being inhumanely severely abused. Mike L.

    • mgadean says:

      500 million postal workers??? In a country of 385 million people????  No wonder they’re going broke!!!!!

      • grannybunny says:

        I meant half a million; sorry about the typo.  But, it’s not our employees who are bankrupting us; it’s Congress!

      • Ds22191 says:

        mgadean people like you distort facts the PO has les than 80,000 and the US population is 300 million you are way off get your facts straight.

        • MikeS says:

          As someone else ponted out, the post office has around 540,000 employees .  NOT 80,000!

          • Mmhmoore says:

            The post office IMO longer has a viable mission. It is a dinosaur.

          • Patroy52 says:

            The USPS is wasteful. They work on Saturday and they deliver a flyer to my house. oh yeah they deliver the mail in my neighborhood in a truck. Do these people even walk anymore?

      • ds22191 says:

        mgadean get your fact straight the US population is only 300 million and the PO employs less than 80, 000 and the reason they are going broke is because they are required to pay pension funds in advance no other agency is doing that it is a congress created problem 

        • grannybunny says:

          Actually, the Postal Service has around 540,000 current employees, having eliminated 168,000 jobs — or 24% of its workforce — since the draconian 2006 Congressional mandate.

      • Frank says:

        You must be watching Fox News! Usps is not broke!

        • $15300432 says:

          No its run out of $$ paying 100,000 not to work

          • Guest says:

            Wrong.  Congress forced the USPS to set aside 50 Years in advance for benefits.  No company in the World does this because it’s impractical and not to mention plan stupid.  Their funding is deverted to set-asides by law.   Further no company could survive this kind of financial nightmare.   Thus the Postal financial manmade problem created by Law Makers.