Federal Employee

I was a Federal Employee (TSA) and after 8 months on the job, I was put on admin leave for a month then terminated. The reason was "unsuitability". They say I "falsified" a document used in the employment process. (I purposely did not disclose an arrest on the application.) This arrest resulted in a traffic misdemeanor which is NOT a disqualifying item (which I knew from the news media coverage on disqualifying items and which things would be allowed... traffic misdeamenors were allowable) so there would be NO NEED or point in me NOT putting it on the public trust form and PURPOSELY hiding it. I DID have the arrest listed (and still have that original application) originally, but had a question mark next to the date. During the employment assessment, I asked the subcontractor (NCS Pearson) what I should do since I couldn't find the correct date. He asked me if I thought it was within the last 7 years. I said it was longer ago than that. He showed me on public trust form where it says that if the investigators have any questions, they will interview the applicant as part of the investigation process so not to worry about it. He said, later on, if something pops up they have a question about, concerning your criminal history or back ground, they will interview you. So I skipped it, and never heard a thing until 8 months later, and never knew why I was on admin leave until I was terminated. I DID list another arrest for the exact same thing, only "guessed" at that date but knew for certain it was within that 7 year window, yet nothing was said to me about that date being incorrect. In fact they say I listed the date correctly.

I had 3 months to go then I would have been off probationary status, so I cannot grieve this through the Merit System Protection Board. I filed a lawsuit with the Federal Gourt for breech of contract. I have had a terrible time trying to find a job because if I use them as a reference, the termination reason shows up. I feel this is a defamation of character, to say that the public "cannot trust me" which is something else they say in the termination letter. The timing of this terminatio is also questionable since it occurred immediately after layoffs were announced. I do have a contract with them since I was a Federal Employee (even though probationary). When they terminated me based on suitability, I feel they breeched the contract then, because nothing I have done can be contrued at unsuitable.

Is this the proper court (Federal) and the proper reason to sue the TSA (breech of contract)? And do you think I have a chance in hades? I am asking for damages in excess of $50,000 for back pay,defamation of character, and undue emotional and mental pain.

1 answer  |  asked Jan 9, 2005 8:49 PM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
Defamation claim against federal government is a loser

Your claim for breach of contract is not likely to go anywhere. As a probationary employee, your employment in the federal service is terminable at will, much like most private sector employment.
The defamation claim is a different story. Defamation is what is known as a tort claim. It does not depend on an employment relationship or any particular relationship with the federal government. But to bring a tort claim against the federal government, you must follow the process established in the Federal Tort Claims Act, a law that prescribes how you can sue the federal government for a tort claim and what claims can be brought. My recollection from researching the issue in another context is that defamation claims are not among those that can be pursued against the feds.
Even if you could pursue such a claim, it requires proof of a false statement made to a third party that injures your reputation. The fact that you did not list the arrest is true. Whether this amounts to cause for termination is not the issue. To prevail, you would have to prove that the government's statement made
to a prospective employer, although technically true, created the false impression that you did something far more deceptive. If you haven't even listed this job on your resume, you don't know if or when you will ever be defamed. Maybe the next employer won't think it's that big a problem.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Jan 10, 2005 12:01 PM [EST]

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