"Keep Your Pants On" At Work

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By on November 9, 2011 in Court Cases, Current Events with 0 Comments

A federal appeals court has backed disciplinary action against a postal service manager that was taken for his sex-based and race-based comments as well as an apparent intentional “dropping of his pants” at work. (Natty v. United States Postal Service, C.A.F.C. No. 2011-3138, (nonprecedential) 10/11/2011) As usual, the summary is taken from the appeals court decision—besides, we couldn’t make this stuff up if we wanted to.

According to the court’s opinion, Mr. Natty of Industry, California, was a twenty-year employee of the USPS when he got into trouble. He was serving as an EAS-24 Manager of Distribution Operations with a workforce of 130 employees as well as several subordinate supervisors reporting directly to him. In 2010 the agency demoted Natty from this position to a PS-04 Part-Time Flex Mail Handler stemming from a charge of “unacceptable conduct.” (Opinion p. 2)

On appeal to the MSPB, the agency and Natty “stipulated that Natty made ongoing comments about race and sex since 2009.” There was apparently ample evidence that Natty had made “inappropriate” comments to a female employee.

The parties disagreed as to whether Natty should have known better. The agency said he should have, citing his EEO training that put him on notice, but Natty cited a letter from a former boss as evidence that such comments were approved. The court, in siding with the agency’s position, explained that this letter “did not condone sex- or race-based comments at work.” (p. 3)

Natty also argued that the AJ erred when he found that Natty had “intentionally dropped his pants.” (p. 3) He maintained that his pants “accidentally slipped.” (p. 3) However, the AJ relied on the testimony of four eyewitnesses whom he found to be more credible than Natty. The court explained its conclusion on this point of contention (perhaps with a bit of tongue in cheek?), “At bottom, we have ample reason to conclude that the AJ’s findings of fact and credibility determinations are adequately supported by the record.” (p. 3)

Although the pants dropping was apparently a one-time thing, because the race- and sex-based comments occurred over several months, the penalty was not out of line, according to the AJ and now the appeals court. (p. 5)

At bottom, Natty will carry on in his part-time flex mail handler position, unless, of course, he could some how convince the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.


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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.