McGuffin v. Social Security Administration
Decided November 7, 2019
The plaintiff, Mr. McGuffin, claimed that he had been wrongly terminated from his position as an attorney advisor with the Social Security Administration (SSA). McGuffin was a preference-eligible veteran, which allowed him to receive employee status and Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) benefits after only one year of probationary employment (as opposed to non-veterans, who must complete two years of probationary employment to receive the same benefits).
McGuffin was hired by the SSA to assist its Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) in researching and drafting decisions. During his first few months at the SSA, McGuffin’s case completion rate was low, but he reached out to his supervisor to receive more training and orientation, which the SSA eventually approved. Although his case completion numbers were low, the ALJs for whom he drafted complimented his thorough work and attention to detail.
Despite this praise, the SSA began to consider terminating McGuffin nine months into his employment. In fact, the SSA noted in its internal communications that, as a veteran, McGuffin needed to be terminated within his first year of employment or he would acquire procedural and appellate rights. The SSA then evaluated McGuffin’s performance and found that he was not completing his fair share of work, despite also noting that he was engaging in learning opportunities and had an overall successful rating.
Because McGuffin was not completing his fair share of the work, the SSA decided to terminate him, even though a senior attorney advisor noted that the “fair share” standard was not normally applied to first year hires, and several ALJs gave positive feedback about his work. Additionally, in his last month with the SSA, McGuffin’s case completion rate nearly doubled, which was not acknowledged by the SSA. McGuffin’s employment was terminated four days before his one-year mark.
McGuffin claimed that by firing him four days before his benefits would vest, the SSA denied him employment benefits because of his military status, which violates the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The MSPB denied his claim, which McGuffin appealed. Ultimately, he Court of Appeals reversed the Board’s decision, finding that McGuffin’s termination was substantially motivated by his veteran status and that the evidence did not support the SSA’s claim that they terminated McGuffin for a valid reason.
Read the Court of Appeals’ full decision here.
Attorney Kirk J. Angel did not represent the above Petitioner. However, he does represent federal employees for cases heard by the MSPB.