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Problems Follow to New Job in Different State

This Social Security Administration employee encountered problems in her first job with the agency and resigned after one suspension and a proposed second suspension. She was hired in a different office in another state two years later. After the job became permanent, the agency sent her a proposed removal notice for a variety of charges. She went to federal court after losing before the MSPB.

A Claims Representative with the Social Security Administration in Georgia failed to convince the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn her firing. (McBeth v. Social Security Administration, C.A.F.C. No. 2006-3289, 7/17/07) The facts below are as reported in the court’s opinion.

McBeth was previously employed as a Service Representative in Louisiana. She was suspended from that position for 2 days for "unprofessional and inappropriate conduct, unauthorized search of a supervisor’s desk, failure to follow an office procedure, and unauthorized removal of signed documents from a claims file." (p. 2)

A couple of weeks later, Louisville proposed to suspend her for 14 days for "failure to follow management instructions, failure to follow office procedures, and inappropriate service to the public." (p. 2) At this point McBeth resigned from the SSA in Louisville.

Fast forward about 2 years and McBeth was rehired by SSA in Georgia as a Claims Representative under a temporary appointment that was eventually made permanent. (p. 2)

Several months later the agency sent McBeth a proposed removal notice based on four charges—discourtesy to a coworker, lack of impartiality, failure to follow supervisor’s orders, discourtesy to the public. (p. 2)

These charges stemmed from various incidents. One involved McBeth’s call to an SSA attorney in the presence of a claimant. During the call, McBeth—in what the witness characterized as a "strident and hostile" tone–informed the attorney the claim was taking too long, should be approved, and criticized him for not doing his job. She then called a Congressional contact to refer the matter, gaining it increased scrutiny. (p. 3)

Another incident involved McBeth’s handling of an end-stage renal disease case in which the claimant was in dire need of reimbursement so she could begin dialysis. Even though told of the need for urgency, McBeth failed to process the claim over a several week period. (p. 3)

Another involved an SSA employee later identified as McBeth telling a member of the public who inquired about location of a rest room to "go in his pants." (p. 4)

Finally, there were a couple of incidents involving McBeth recording discussions with supervisors, contrary to specific orders not to. (pp. 3-4).

SSA fired McBeth. She appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, had a hearing before an Administrative Judge, and lost. She then took her case to the appeals court, but had no better luck there. The court found there was sufficient evidence to support the charges and that removal was an appropriate penalty. (pp. 8-9)

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.