Court Upholds Firing of USPS Employee Accused of On-Duty Cannabis Purchase

A federal U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the firing of a Chicago-based former Postal Service employee after they appeared to make an illegal cannabis purchase in 2017.

Full story after the jump.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has upheld the removal from federal service of a Postal Service (USPS) employee who in 2017 appeared to have purchased cannabis from the postal truck of a co-worker while on duty, according to an SHRM report.

The employee, a city carrier at Chicago, Illinois’ Dearborn Station was removed following a Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation that found that a co-worker, another letter carrier, was selling cannabis from a Postal Service vehicle. The employee and six other letter carriers admitted that the deals took place, but the removed employee denied the allegations. Five of the seven other employees who had been removed over the accusations appealed their terminations through grievance arbitration and the arbitrators settled from removal to long-term suspensions, and the employees were permitted to return to work without back pay, the report says.

Following appeals to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and an administrative judge, the employee appealed to the Federal Circuit appeals court, argued that USPS had failed to prove that he had bought cannabis while on duty and in uniform, and that his removal was inconsistent with the arbitrators’ decisions to reduce the penalties imposed on his co-workers.

The Federal Circuit found the evidence, which included video, sufficient to uphold the penalty, as the standard was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt but rather a preponderance of the evidence. The court decided that the arbitration decisions were not binding on the court and noted that his colleagues took responsibility for their actions, which supported their lesser punishment.

The removed employee had worked for USPS since 1989. Cannabis was legalized in Illinois in 2019.

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