VA Pharmacist Loses Bid To Overturn Her Removal

The VA Medical Center in Washington, DC successfully defended its decision to fire one of its clinical pharmacists based on three charges.

In Bowe-Connor v Department of Veterans Affairs (CAFC no. 2017-2011 (nonprecedential) 11/13/17), a pharmacist charged with causing delay in patient medication, conduct unbecoming, and disrespectful conduct, could not persuade the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) nor the federal appeals court that her removal should be overturned. The Board held that the agency had provided sufficient evidence to uphold the following three charges against Bowe-Connor:

According to the court’s opinion, Ms. Bowe-Connor worked in the inpatient pharmacy when events occurred that led the agency to fire her. The charge involving causing a delay in a patient receiving prescribed medication related to an incident when the surgical intensive care unit tried to reach the pharmacy to fill a prescription, but Bowe-Connor did not answer the phone even though she was on duty and present. Her supervisor tried to get Bowe-Connor to answer the phone but was at first ignored and then told by Bowe-Connor not to bother her because she was busy on another task. (Opinion p. 4)

The conduct unbecoming charge involved calls to the pharmacy trying to get medicine for a critically ill surgical patient whose IV was almost empty and a refill had been ordered 2 hours before. When the doctor ordering the medicine called the pharmacy requesting the medication “STAT” Bowe-Connor argued with him about it being a true emergency. The doctor then had to go to the pharmacy himself to prepare the IV and take it to the patient. (p. 4)

The disrespectful conduct charge stemmed from Bowe-Connor “loudly and disrespectfully” arguing with her bosses about the decision to assign a particular pharmacy tech to help out in her area.

The court saw no problem with MSPB’s findings and decision to uphold the three charges against her, stating, “Quite simply, Ms. Bowe-Connor’s real complaint is that the Board weighed the evidence and came to the wrong conclusion in her case. This is not a reason to set aside the Board’s decision, however.” (p. 6)

Bowe-Connor v. VA (2017-2011) by FedSmith Inc. on Scribd

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.