Rueter v. United States Department of Commerce, No. 21-2216 (Fed. Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Rueter worked for NOAA under his supervisor, Dr. Bolden. In November 2014, two female employees of agency contractors informed Bolden of incidents that had occurred at a Halloween costume party and the following morning, when Rueter engaged in inappropriate conduct directed at them. In June 2015, Rueter loudly yelled disrespectful accusations at Bolden in her office. In November 2016, Rueter’s second-level supervisor issued a letter to Rueter proposing that he be removed from his position for misconduct. Rueter filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The agency stayed the removal action for several months at OSC’s request. In September 2017, Rueter’s third-level supervisor rescinded the first proposed removal letter and issued a second notice of proposed removal, which charged conduct unbecoming a federal employee and disrespectful conduct toward a supervisor, explaining in detail the specifications supporting each charge.
Rueter, claiming that his removal was retaliation for his complaints against Bolden, unsuccessfully appealed his subsequent removal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting Rueter’s claims that three internal, ex parte emails deprived him of due process, that the Board improperly denied his request to have certain testimony at the removal hearing, and that he was improperly denied in camera inspection of certain documents. The emails did not provide new and material evidence nor apply undue pressure on the deciding official to remove Rueter.