Williams v. Bureau of Prisons, No. 22-1575 (Fed. Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Williams was a Beaumont, Texas federal corrections officer beginning March 4, 2018. In 2016, Williams met Hayes. The two were engaged and had a child in September 2018. Hayes had been in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody from 2005-2013, including at FCC-Beaumont. He was on supervised release until July 15, 2018. Williams knew Hayes had been incarcerated but was unaware he had been in federal custody. In May 2019, after learning of the relationship, BOP placed Williams on administrative reassignment. Under the Standards of Employee Conduct, employees may not “become emotionally, physically, sexually, or financially involved with inmates, [or] former inmates.” If employees engage in improper contact, they must report the contact. A “former inmate” is an inmate for whom less than one year has elapsed since release from BOP custody or federal court supervision. Hayes met this definition until July 15, 2019. Williams learned, on June 3, 2019, that Hayes had been incarcerated in federal prison. She reported her relationship the next day. BOP issued a notice of proposed removal. The warden sustained the charges and removed Williams.
An arbitrator sustained the charge of improper contact but did not sustain the charge of failure to report and upheld the removal, finding that the warden considered the relevant "Douglas" factors and exercised his discretion “within tolerable limits of reasonableness.” The Federal Circuit vacated. The arbitrator failed to independently analyze the appropriateness of alternative sanctions and accepted for sanctions purposes the warden’s fact findings which the arbitrator had rejected.