Stealing gift cards from undeliverable mail seems like something that Newman would have done on "Seinfeld." Except Newman never stooped so low. Instead, Warren Schiff -- Richard Dreyfuss' character on "Weeds" -- will be remembered as the TV mail carrier who pilfered gifts from undelivered mail.
So what would happen if a postal employee pulled a similar stunt in real life?
He would lose his job. And the federal employment review process would offer no relief.
Frederick Mosley was a U.S. Postal Service employee for 24 years. He was terminated following a December 2010 incident in which the Postal Service discovered that Mosley had obtained and used a Publix gift card, worth $25, that had been stored as undeliverable accountable mail. A coworker reported the lost gift card, prompting an inspection by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Receipts and surveillance footage led the OIG straight to Mosley.
Mosley claimed that the gift card in question was a gift left on his desk by his subordinates. While that may have been the case, the details of his story varied upon retelling. The Postmaster proposed removal.
An administrative law judge (ALJ) sustained the charge of improper conduct, and ruled that removal was a permissible sanction because Mosley's false statements implicated his duties as a supervisor and had an adverse impact on the Postal Service's mission. (Even if the gift card was from subordinates, Mosley's acceptance would have been improper because it exceeded $10 in value and thus he could not accept it under Postal Service ethics rules.)
The Merit System Protection Board agreed, and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling in an unpublished opinion.
Here, the Federal Circuit concluded that the ALJ's credibility findings were sufficient to sustain both charges, because (1) Mosley failed to produce a witness to support his version of the story and (2) the evidence supported the finding that, even if Mosley did not personally take the gift card, he at least received a gift in an amount exceeding $10.
The Federal Circuit only reverses a Board decision upholding an agency's penalty if the penalty "exceeds the range of permissible punishment or is 'so harsh and unconscionably disproportionate to the offense that it amounts to an abuse of discretion.'" Mosley's case didn't meet that standard.
The Post Office may be able to forgive some transgressions, but it won't overlook the type of action that "strikes at the core of its mission." Because the ALJ and MSPB didn't abuse their discretion in finding that Mosley's conduct posed a threat to the "integrity of the mail," the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision.
- Mosley v. U.S. Postal Service (Federal Circuit Court of Appeals)
- SCOTUS: District Court Has Original Jurisdiction in MSPB 'Mixed Cases' (FindLaw's Federal Circuit Blog)
- Top 3 Federal Circuit Employment Law Decisions of 2012 (FindLaw's Federal Circuit Blog)