Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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Williams and Winns, former employees of the U.S. Postal Service, were removed from their positions and separately sought review by the Merit Systems Protection Board. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s dismissal of their cases. Only certain federal employees, as defined by statute, can seek review at the Board; neither individual qualified as an “employee” with appeal rights under 5 U.S.C. 7511(a)(1)(B)(ii). The statute states that “‘employee’ means . . . a preference eligible in the excepted service who has completed 1 year of current continuous service in the same or similar positions . . . in the United States Postal Service.” Office of Personnel Management regulations define “current continuous employment” as “a period of employment or service immediately preceding an adverse action without a break in Federal civilian employment of a workday.” The statute is not intended to cover an individual who was employed through a series of temporary appointments; each man took a break of several days between appointments. The court also rejected Williams’s argument that he retained appeal rights from a prior appointment because the Postal Service did not advise him on the loss of appeal rights that would result from his reappointment to a new position. View "Williams v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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From 1968-1991, Lledo was employed at the Subic Bay, Philippines U.S. Navy Public Works Center, initially as an Apprentice (electrician) “excepted service – indefinite appointment.” Lledo resigned with the designated severance pay in 1991, having worked in various positions, finally as a Telephone Installation and Repair Foreman. In 2014, Lledo applied for deferred retirement benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and requested to make a post-employment deposit into the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF). The Office of Personnel Management denied the requests. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed, stating that all of Lledo’s appointments, including his final position, were either not-to-exceed appointments or indefinite appointments in the excepted service; “[w]hile [Lledo] has shown that he had sufficient creditable federal service, he has failed to show that any of that service was performed in a position covered under the [Act].” The Federal Circuit affirmed. Under 5 U.S.C. 8333(a)–(b), to qualify for a CSRS retirement annuity, an employee must have performed at least five years of creditable civilian service, and must have served at least one of his last two years of federal service in a covered position, subject to the Act. Temporary, intermittent, term, and excepted indefinite appointments are not covered positions; substantial evidence supports the conclusion that Lledo’s service was excluded from CSRDF coverage. View "Lledo v. Office of Personnel Management" on Justia Law

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Holton supervised a Portsmouth Naval Shipyard crane team that was moving submarine covers. Each unit weighed roughly 60,000 pounds. Holton briefed the crew and gave control over the crane to the authorized rigger, then left the crane to supervise preparation of the landing area. From this position, Holton could not see the crane’s boom. Holton’s crew had previously performed the operation, which involved a tight curve, without incident. The crane traveled too far on the inside of the curve; its boom struck Building 343, causing $30,000 in damage. Shipyard Instructions allow drug testing of employees after an accident causing damage in excess of $10,000, when “their actions are reasonably suspected of having caused or contributed to an accident.” The executive director authorized drug testing of the entire team. Holton took the test, certifying that the drug-testing contractor took the proper steps. Holton’s sample tested positive for marijuana twice. The Executive Director removed him. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed, finding that the Navy’s failure to provide Holton with advance written notice of why he was being tested, as required by regulation, was harmless because it did not change the outcome. The Federal Circuit affirmed. There was reasonable suspicion that Holton, who briefed the crew, caused or contributed to the accident; the drug test was properly administered and did not violate Holton’s constitutional rights or the regulation's standard. View "Holton v. Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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On September 11, 2012, President Obama published notice “continuing for [one] year the national emergency . . . with respect to the terrorist attacks.” In April 2013, O’Farrell, an Army Reservist, received an order directing him to replace another Reservist, an attorney, who had been deployed. After reaching his maximum total years of active commissioned service (28 years), O’Farrell was transferred to the Army Reserve Retired List in October 2013. O’Farrell served his active duty as legal counsel until September 30, 2013. By August 26, 2013, O’Farrell had used his 15 days of military leave, most of his accrued annual leave, and advance annual leave. To avoid being placed on Military Leave Without Pay for the remainder of his active duty service, O’Farrell (unsuccessfully) requested an additional 22 days leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(a)(1). O’Farrell did not cite any statutory provision that would qualify him as "called to full-time military service as a result of a call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation." He argued that he was “serving . . . during a national emergency." O’Farrell sued under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4301– 4333. The Federal Circuit reversed. Section 6323(b) does not require that “a specific contingency operation" be identified in military orders when an employee is activated; “in support of” includes indirect assistance to a contingency operation, 5 U.S.C. 6323(b)(2)(B), which includes a military operation that results in service members being called to active duty under any law during a national emergency, 10 U.S.C. 101(a)(13). A service member’s leave request need not use particular language. View "O'Farrell v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law

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A 2004 IRS regulation excluded medical residents from the FICA tax student exception for services provided after April 1, 2005. In 2010, the IRS decided that residents could qualify for the exception for tax periods ending before April 1, 2005, such that “hospitals and [medical] residents who had filed protective refund claims for tax periods before April 1, 2005[,] would be able to obtain refunds of the FICA taxes.” Former residents sued, alleging that the Hospital had not filed protective refund claims 1995-2001. The Hospital and residents entered into a settlement: the Hospital agreed to pay the residents $6,632,000, stating that the payment “can be appropriately characterized as a refund for the amount of FICA taxes previously withheld.” The Hospital then sued the United States, alleging that Internal Revenue Code 3102(b) entitled it to indemnification for the settlement. The Claims Court dismissed, holding that section 3102(b) is not a money-mandating source of substantive law, as required for Tucker Act jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1). The Federal Circuit reversed. Section 3102(b), which states “[e]very employer required so to deduct the tax shall be liable for the payment of such tax, and shall be indemnified against the claims and demands of any person for the amount of any such payment made by such employer,” is reasonably amenable to an interpretation that mandates the government to reimburse FICA taxes paid by an employer. View "New York and Presbyterian Hospital v. United States" on Justia Law

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A 2004 IRS regulation excluded medical residents from the FICA tax student exception for services provided after April 1, 2005. In 2010, the IRS decided that residents could qualify for the exception for tax periods ending before April 1, 2005, such that “hospitals and [medical] residents who had filed protective refund claims for tax periods before April 1, 2005[,] would be able to obtain refunds of the FICA taxes.” Former residents sued, alleging that the Hospital had not filed protective refund claims 1995-2001. The Hospital and residents entered into a settlement: the Hospital agreed to pay the residents $6,632,000, stating that the payment “can be appropriately characterized as a refund for the amount of FICA taxes previously withheld.” The Hospital then sued the United States, alleging that Internal Revenue Code 3102(b) entitled it to indemnification for the settlement. The Claims Court dismissed, holding that section 3102(b) is not a money-mandating source of substantive law, as required for Tucker Act jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1). The Federal Circuit reversed. Section 3102(b), which states “[e]very employer required so to deduct the tax shall be liable for the payment of such tax, and shall be indemnified against the claims and demands of any person for the amount of any such payment made by such employer,” is reasonably amenable to an interpretation that mandates the government to reimburse FICA taxes paid by an employer. View "New York and Presbyterian Hospital v. United States" on Justia Law

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The patent, entitled “Full Duplex Single Clip Video Codec” lists co-inventors, Woo, Li, and Hsiun, and was created while they were Infochips employees. Infochips’ “receivables,” pledged as security, were seized by LM when Infochips went out of business in 1993; in 1995, LM sold Infochips’s assets to Woo. Woo assigned his interest in the patent to AVC. In 1995, AVC filed the patent's parent application. Woo and Li assigned their interests to AVC. Hsiun refused to do so. The PTO permitted AVC to prosecute the application without that assignment. AVC claimed that it obtained Hsiun’s interests by Hsiun's 1992 Employment Agreement with Infochips. The patent was issued to AVC, which later dissolved, after purporting to transfer its assets to its successors (Advanced Video). In 2011, Advanced Video filed patent infringement lawsuits. The district court found that AVC had not complied with Delaware statutes governing dissolved corporations and that no patent rights had transferred to Advanced Video. The cases were dismissed. The state court appointed a Receiver to transfer AVC's patent rights to Advanced Video. After the transfer, Advanced Video filed new infringement lawsuits, arguing that its acquisition of Hsiun’s interest was effected by the Employment Agreement’s “will assign,” trust and quitclaim provisions. The court rejected the argument and, because Hsiun was not a party to the suit, dismissed for lack of standing. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Hsiun never actually assigned her rights, despite her promises to do so. View "Advanced Video Technologies, LLC v. HTC Corp." on Justia Law

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The Directors of the Office of Compliance affirmed a finding that the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) engaged in unfair labor practices when it issued Officer Konczos a Command Discipline Warning in response to Konczos’s protected union activity, 5 U.S.C. 7102. Konczos had expressed dissatisfaction with the USCP policy of requiring officers to work a double-shift when the need arises, sometimes informing an officer about the extra shift only at the last minute. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Fraternal Order of Police and the USCP permits the USCP to require officers on the current tour to be held over for a subsequent tour. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The parties did not dispute that Konczos engaged in protected activity when he raised the issue during regularly scheduled labor-management meetings and when he reiterated his concerns in an email to the police chief; the court rejected USCP’s argument, that the portion of Konczos’s email protesting his own personal holdover did not constitute a protected activity. Substantial evidence supported findings that Konczos made a prima facie case of discrimination and that USCP’s stated justifications were pretextual. View "United States Capitol Police v. Office of Compliance" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, employed by the Office of Air and Marine (OAM), within the Department of Homeland Security, alleged that the agency’s actions and policies violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301–4335. They were members of the Air Force and Navy Reserves. They subsequently resigned, claiming that they were “forced to quit.” An administrative judge (AJ) rejected Petitioners’ contention that the OAM violated USERRA by failing to grant them waivers from participating in training courses that conflicted with their military service dates, creating a hostile work environment, forcing them to surrender their badges and weapons during military leaves of 30 or more days, delaying within-grade pay increases, and requiring them to use annual, sick, or other leave in lieu of military leave. The AJ found “a legitimate basis for the [Agency’s] security policy,” and an “absence of any evidence that its [weapons] policy was adopted with discriminatory intent.” Allegedly hostile incidents were either “‘unavoidable’ workplace friction” or did not rise to the level of “humiliating,” “physically threatening,” or “so frequent and pervasive” to render their work environment hostile. They later filed a second complaint, alleging constructive discharge. The AJ, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Federal Circuit agreed that the constructive discharge claims were barred by collateral estoppel as “inextricably linked” to their previous hostile work environment claims. The standard for establishing constructive discharge is higher than that for hostile work environment, View "Bryant v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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Henderson was a VA Program Analyst. Veterans may, under certain circumstances, obtain medical care from private physicians and facilities after obtaining preauthorization from a VA supervisory physician. An “unresolved authorized consult” means that a veteran’s medical appointment with an outside provider has not been scheduled or completed, or the completed appointment has not been memorialized. Henderson was charged with 50 counts of making false statements related to health care matters, 18 U.S.C. 1035, for ordering VA employees under his direction to close 2700 unresolved authorized consults by falsely declaring the consults were completed or refused by the patients. The VA informed Henderson that it proposed to suspend him for an indefinite period, noting that if convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each count. Henderson, through counsel, denied the allegations, requested documentary evidence from the VA regarding his alleged wrongdoing, and asked that the proposed suspension be stayed pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings. The VA indefinitely suspended Henderson. A Merit Systems Protection Board administrative judge found, and the Board, and Federal Circuit affirmed, that the indictment provided the VA with reasonable cause to believe that he had committed a crime for which imprisonment could be imposed. The VA established a nexus between the criminal charges and the efficiency of the service. View "Henderson v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law