Postal Clerk Waived Appeal Rights So MSPB Upholds Removal

The following is a summary of the decision- click here to read the entire case.

PR note: This case illustrates why employees must be very careful when entering into Last Chance Agreements:

Appellant: Gary Donnell Rhett
Agency: United States Postal Service
Decision Number: 2010 MSPB 21
Docket Number: AT-0752-09-0408-I-1; AT-0752-09-0484-I-1
Issuance Date: January 27, 2010
Appeal Type: Adverse Action by Agency
Action Type: Removal

The appellant petitioned for review of two initial decisions that dismissed his appeals for lack of adverse action jurisdiction. Effective September 5, 2008, the agency removed the appellant from his position based on alleged attendance-related misconduct. While a grievance of that action was pending, the parties entered into a last?chance settlement agreement (LCSA), under which the appellant returned to work. The LCSA also provided that the appellant could be removed for any attendance-related misconduct for a period of 18 months, and that he waived his right to appeal to the Board for any action taken for such misconduct. During the 18-month period, the agency removed the appellant from his position for his alleged breach of the LCSA. The appellant filed appeals of both removal actions. As to the first removal, the administrative judge considered and rejected the appellant’s arguments that the LCSA was invalid, and found that the appellant could not appeal this removal because he had settled it without expressly reserving his right to file a Board appeal of the action. As to the second removal, the administrative judge again found that the LCSA was valid and enforceable, that the appellant breached the agreement when he was absent from work on 5 occasions, and that the appellant could not appeal the second removal because he had waived his appeal rights in the LCSA.

Holdings: The Board denied the appellant’s PFR, reopened the appeals on its own motion, and affirmed the initial decisions as modified, still dismissing both appeals for lack of adverse action jurisdiction. In agreeing with the administrative judge’s conclusion that the last-chance settlement agreement was valid, the Board noted that the agency had failed to inform the appellant in connection with the first removal action that, as a preference-eligible employee, he had the right to appeal his removal to the Board. The record showed, however, that the appellant knew or should have known that may have had Board appeal rights at the time he entered into the agreement.

The last-chance settlement agreement further provided:
I, [the appellant], have read and understand the conditions and restrictions set forth in the above agreement. I am mentally and physically fit so as to be able to understand this agreement in its entirety. . . . I know and understand that I have waived my appeal rights through any and all forums and avenues, including, but not limited to, the Merit Systems Protection Board, . . . for any removal action initiated against me for violation of this last chance agreement during this two-year period.