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Inappropriate Penalty for Public Employee’s Misconduct

Is it inappropriate to consider a public employee’s denial of misconduct when considering potential for rehabilitation?

In Love v. District of Columbia Office of Employee Appeals, Respondents (both former employees) refused to acknowledge that their actions in failing to classify properly inmates, resulting in the inmates’ escape, were either wrong or mistakes. Both officers admitted that the actions occurred, but stood firm in their belief that those actions were correct in the situation.

OEA found that Respondents’ actions were negligent. Both Respondents were fired from their public employment positions. Throughout the numerous appeals and reviews, Respondents continued to assert that their actions were not negligent and that they had not made mistakes. OEA determined that the Respondents could not be rehabilitated since they would not acknowledge that their actions were wrong.  And since the Respondents could not be rehabilitated, the Respondents were terminated properly, according to OEA.

According to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, it was inappropriate for the Department of Corrections and OEA to use an employee’s failure to acknowledge his/her action as wrong or as a mistake in determining a public employee’s potential for rehabilitation.  A public employee’s ability to be rehabilitated is one factor considered by an employer when determining an appropriate punishment.

In sum, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals determined that a public employee is not required to agree with the public employer’s view of the misconduct in order to have potential for rehabilitation.

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