Getting Fired Can Be a Costly Process for Taxpayers
Tomorrow is an anniversary Bob Whitmore never sought and it has been marked with a present he doesn’t want.
Two years ago Thursday, Whitmore was placed on paid administrative leave by the Labor Department, where he is a senior executive in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Now, after the agency paid him $300,000 to do nothing, he learned yesterday that he will be fired this month.
This is not a story about whether Whitmore deserves to get the boot or not. It is a story about a bureaucracy that strings along a 37-year employee with a good record of service. The bosses prohibited him from doing a lick of work, even from home, causing taxpayers to pay for zilch.
Certainly there should be no rush to judgment in cases where a career is at stake. But there is nothing to suggest Whitmore’s case should have taken so long to decide. Perhaps it’s not only the federal hiring process that is broken. If this is any example, the firing process is in pretty bad shape too.
As we’ve reported in previous columns, Whitmore was placed on leave after an altercation with his supervisor that involved allegations, on both sides, of shouting and spitting. He said it was not until April of this year that he was given the specific reasons for his proposed dismissal in a 19-page document.
He fought the firing but lost.
The “decision letter” he received from Deputy Assistant Secretary Donald G. Shalhoub yesterday said Whitmore engaged “in a high degree of disruptive, intimidating and inappropriate behavior in the workplace.”
Shalhoub’s letter said Whitmore’s offer to submit to stress management counseling “rings hollow.”
Whitmore also offered to work at home for 90 days, during which supervisors could evaluate his performance. That would have given them time to decide “am I worth salvaging or do you want to throw me out with the rest of the trash,” Whitmore said.
A lesser penalty, Shalhoub wrote, is insufficient because of “the pervasive nature of your misconduct and the detrimental effect it has had on the efficiency and morale of employees.”
The decision to throw Whitmore out can be appealed.
His lawyer, Robert C. Seldon, said they plan to use an alternative dispute resolution process, which the agency must agree to. After that, Whitmore could appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
“I just think it was shockingly arrogant and completely illegal,” Seldon said of the firing. “This is not over yet.”
Contact Joe Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org
The comments to this entry are closed.