Valles v. Department of State, No. 20-1686 (Fed. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Valles began working for the State Department as a passport specialist in 2011. In 2016, Valles served a three-day suspension for charges concerning inappropriate sexual and political comments made to co-workers and customers. In 2018, Valles served a five-day suspension for failure to follow instructions and failure to protect personally identifiable information. In 2019, Valles received a performance appraisal of “Fully Successful” for 2018.
The agency nonetheless proposed Valles’ removal based on four charges from 18 specifications dating between July 2018 and February 2019. Some of the alleged conduct occurred during the 2018 evaluation period. The charges included failure to follow instructions, failure to properly move along applications and provide updates, leaving a passport application on a photocopier, failure to follow policies concerning the handling of fees, not maintaining control over applications, leaving his adjudication stamp unsecured, and drinking from a wine glass at his workstation in the public counter.
An administrative judge upheld the termination. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The agency proved all the charges and established a nexus between the proven misconduct and the agency’s ability to carry out its mission. The penalty was reasonable, considering all the relevant “Douglas” factors, including the repeated nature and seriousness of the misconduct, Valles’ prior discipline, his seven years of federal service and job performance, the consistency of the penalty with similar cases, and the lack of rehabilitation potential on Valles’ part.