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Court Rules On Federal Employee Suspension In Virginia Case

January 25, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that about 500,000 members of the federal workforce are barred by law from appealing if suspended for alleged misconduct.

The court, by a 5-3 vote, said federal employees in the ″excepted service″ - those not chosen by competitive civil service tests - do not have that right under a 1978 law protecting federal workers.

The decision is a defeat for Joseph Fausto, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee who served as an administrator at a Young Adult Conservation Corps camp in Virginia Beach, Va.

After being suspended for 30 days without pay in 1980 for the allegedly unauthorized use of a government vehicle, Fausto sought review with the Merit Systems Protection Board, established under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.

The board dismissed his appeal, noting that employees in Fausto’s classification have no right of appeal to the board.

Fausto sued the government in 1983 in the U.S. Claims Court, invoking the federal Back Pay Act.

The lawsuit was dismissed, however, when the Claims Court ruled that Fausto was limited to seeking legal remedies provided by the 1978 civil service law. The ruling effectively left Fausto without any legal recourse since the 1978 law does not provide any remedy for those employees in Fausto’s situation.

A federal appeals court ruled that Fausto could sue in the Claims Court, and ruled that he is entitled to back pay for a wrongful suspension.

Monday’s decision reversed the appeals court ruling.

Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said Congress intended to make the 1978 law the sole legal weapon for ″excepted service″ federal employees.

He said Congress made a conscious determination that such employees should not be able to seek administrative or judicial review when suspended for misconduct.

Scalia’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Byron R. White, Harry A. Blackmun and Sandra Day O’Connor. Justices John Paul Stevens, William J. Brennan and Thurgood Marshall dissented.

The case is U.S. vs. Fausto, 86-595.