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

There was enough evidence to convince the Postal Service that a supervisor had helped himself to a grocery gift card that belonged in the pile of undeliverable mail. This led to his removal.

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 (Mosley v. USPS (2012-3182) (CAFC No. 2012-3182, 1/15/13, nonprecedential)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.

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.