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In ‘Landmark’ Ruling, Court Raises Threshold for Firing Feds

Agencies must do more to prove feds were actually performing poorly, court says in precedent-setting decision. “Federal agencies are now facing new requirements to fire employees thanks to a court ruling that reversed a decades old precedent.  In Santos v. NASA, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found the space agency failed to justify putting one of its engineers, Fernando Santos, on a performance improvement plan, or PIP. It was a ruling with sweeping implications, as agencies had never before been forced to establish cause for placing employees on a PIP. The plans are typically used by managers as a warning for poorly performing workers before initiating disciplinary action.  Santos’ manager put him on a PIP after he missed meetings, which he argued he only missed when he took leave due to his requirements as a commander in the Navy Reserves. He faced the improvement plan shortly after he was assigned a new supervisor, despite receiving several accolades in his previous 18 years of service. The supervisor quickly issued several citations against Santos for taking the leave and for falling behind on work during his absences. She eventually placed Santos on a performance improvement plan in May of 2018 and he was fired four months later.  Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, civilian employers cannot take disciplinary action against employees for missing time due to military service obligations…” [h/t Derick Callwood]

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