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What Does It Take To Get Fired by a Federal Agency?

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Imagine if your boss deemed your work “unacceptable” and you received the lowest-possible performance rating. Three years in a row. Most of us would expect—should expect—to lose our jobs. It seems that some managers at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hold a different view.

A jaw-dropping report by the Commerce Department’s inspector general chronicles the findings of an investigation into charges that a patent examiner abused the agency’s telework program. The IG substantiated the allegations and much more. Investigators determined that the employee inflated his work hours by more than 40 percent in 2014 alone—possibly much more, because they gave him the benefit of the doubt where evidence was lacking.

But that wasn’t the most egregious finding. The employee, “Examiner A” in the IG report, had received lousy performance reviews three years running. He also had been warned 9 times about his substandard performance and in 2014, USPTO uncovered 13 separate instances of work-related misconduct known as “work credit abuse,” when an examiner intentionally manipulates production data.The IG found evidence the examiner violated criminal laws and referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which declined to pursue the matter. Investigators also uncovered multiple written complaints to the examiner’s supervisors since 2012 by patent applicants and attorneys who said Examiner A failed to respond to their emails and phone calls.

All this, and the employee was not fired—he resigned earlier this year, just hours before he was ordered to meet with the IG:

On the day of his resignation, Examiner A stated in an IM to a co-worker that “popa [Examiner A’s patent examiner union] said i should resign today to have a clean slate [with] no conduct or performance record.”

If you’re wondering why so many people have lost faith in government, Examiner A (along with his union advisor and federal managers) is Exhibit A.  

(Image via johnkworks/Shutterstock.com)

Katherine is deputy editor of Government Executive Media Group, a division of Atlantic Media, where she oversees editorial coverage for GovExec.com and Government Executive magazine. She previously was executive editor of Nextgov.

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