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Supreme Court ruling impacts federal employee's path to dispute dismissals

Federal employees in Dallas who did not sign up for the military draft or those who have been fired because they did not sign up will be interested in a recent Supreme Court ruling regarding this very situation. The case that prompted the ruling was brought by a man who was hired by the Internal Revenue Service in 1991. In 2002, he was a candidate for a promotion. However, the IRS performed a background check, and at that time, they determined the man never signed up for the Selective Service. The man claimed he was unaware of the requirement, but he was later fired anyway.

The man believed his dismissal violated his employee rights. He responded by appealing the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board, arguing that it was sex discrimination since only men were required to sign up for the military draft. However, the MSPB determined it did not have the authority to make decisions regarding constitutionality, so the man took his case to a district court. It ultimately ended up in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court's recent decision only ruled on the process for which federal employees can challenge a dismissal. They did not rule on the constitutionality of the statute in question. They determined the only avenue for this man to challenge the loss of his job was through the MSPB.

This ruling has an impact on all federally employed individuals, not just those that failed to register for the military draft. This man was fired according to an existing statute regarding enrollment in the Selective Service. However, other employees who believe they have been wrongly dismissed must first bring their case to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Only after a ruling is made by the MSPB can an individual bring their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Source: The Washington Post, "Fired federal employees have limited route for challenging dismissals," Robert Barnes, June 11, 2012

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