If you have been disciplined or subjected to an investigation relating to a possible adverse job action, you will quickly realize that one of the most important factors in the outcome of your case is the evidence presented.
While the administrative proceedings that make up most federal employment disputes are governed by different rules of evidence from criminal cases, the evidence is just a vital. Two cases arising out of the General Services Administration's (GSA) Las Vegas conference scandal demonstrate how important evidence or lack of evidence can be to whether a federal employee is separated or reinstated with back pay.
Two senior managers were fired after the news of the scandal broke, which involved an extravagant conference that was held in Las Vegas. The GSA terminated the Region 7 and Region 8 commissioners.
The appealed their terminations and an administrative law judge canceled their removals. The GSA then turned to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which rejected their appeal, finding that they failed to present evidence that showed these employees "knew or had reason to know of these ill-advised planning and purchasing decisions until after the conference had concluded."
Because the MSPB found that most of the conference planning and purchasing decision were made by Region 9 employees, the lack of evidence showing a connection to these commissioners was significant.
During a disciplinary proceeding, evidence supporting your arguments is crucial. Complete documentation, from memos, emails and even contemporaneous notes of meetings or phone conversations can be instrumental in proving your version of events.
If you believe you are likely to be a target of discipline or investigation, careful documentation of all of your communications is important and necessary to protect your career.
Govexec.com, "Two GSA Managers Fired in Conference Scandal Reinstated With 30 Months of Back Pay," Eric Katz, December 30, 2014