January 14, 2021 | NAAE Case Study “One and Done”


During 2020, NAAE in its representative capacity has, on several occasions, had to confront the Agency’s zero-tolerance policy for employees discovered misusing their government computers or cell phones, such as for viewing porn, streaming, or gambling. In every instance, the Agency imposed the maximum allowable penalty, removal from service, as punishment for employees charged with violating this Agency’s well-publicized policy – even when the employee had an otherwise clean record and excellent performance reviews. Despite the Agency’s reliance upon its Table of Penalties, authorizing removal for first-time computer-abuse offenders, NAAE has been able to convince the Agency, through the grievance process, to abandon its zero-tolerance policy in a few exceptional computer-misuse cases when other compelling mitigating factors were present. These factors included, for example, the employee demonstrating sincere remorse and contrition, presenting glowing reports from supervisors, and proving exacerbating medical conditions (whether physical or psychological) or unusual job-related stresses contributed to his exercise of poor judgment. In these rare cases, NAAE has been able to persuade the Agency to accept the more employee friendly language appearing in the parties’ Collective Bargaining Agreement, Green Book 2.0, as the basis for imposing discipline. The Green Book states that, “adverse actions…will generally be progressive in nature.” Upon a convincing showing of extenuating circumstances, the Agency has agreed, in the name of “progressive discipline,” to lessen their punishment, typically to a 30-day or 14- day suspension, in those unique cases.