Harris v. Securities and Exchange Commission, No. 19-1676 (Fed. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 2014-2018, Harris was the Branch Chief of the Continuity of Operations (COOP) branch, a division of the SEC’s Office of Support Operations (OSO) in Washington, D.C. In mid-2017, performance issues began to surface with respect to the Achieving Results in Occupation and Teamwork and Collaboration critical elements of her performance evaluations. The notice described examples such as disregarding supervisory guidance, coming to meetings unprepared, and demonstrating inflexibility. Harris had 90 days to improve her performance by satisfying 15 Performance Improvement Requirements (PIP). In January 2018, after that period ended, Harris received a notice of proposed removal, identifying eight instances of failing to meet the Performance Improvement Requirements. In February 2018, Harris was removed from the agency for “unacceptable performance” of her duties, 5 U.S.C. 4303(a).
The Merit Systems Protection Board and Federal Circuit upheld her removal. Substantial evidence indicates that Harris was sufficiently warned of her inadequate performance. Harris has not shown that her PIP standards were unreasonable. None of the agency’s actions during the PIP amount to sufficient evidence of pretext to call into question the well-supported conclusion that Harris received a meaningful opportunity to improve her performance. The court noted that Harris had waived any claims of discrimination or retaliation.