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Fontenot v. United States Postal Service

February 10, 1999

JOSEPH D. FONTENOT, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, RESPONDENT.



Before Rich, Circuit Judge, Smith, Senior Circuit Judge, and Gajarsa, Circuit Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

Decision

Mr. Joseph D. Fontenot appeals from a decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board (Board), which became final on July 28, 1998, sustaining the action of the United States Postal Service (USPS) demoting Mr. Fontenot from a supervisor of customer services to a part- time flexible clerk because he had created a hostile work environment while a supervisor. We affirm.

Background

After a hearing, the Board rendered its decision, crediting four witnesses who testified about Mr. Fontenot's recurring use of profane language, suggestive jokes, inappropriate touching, and suggestive comments directed toward fellow employees including at least two women whom he supervised. Based on this evidence, the Board sustained the agency's charge of unsatisfactory work performance in creating a hostile work environment.

The Board held that Fontenot's demotion and reassignment by the USPS promoted the efficiency of the service and was reasonable. Specifically, the Board stated that:

"[Mr. Fontenot's] conduct involved more than inappropriate comments, it included physical touching. Further, [Mr. Fontenot] was on notice that the use of profanity was inappropriate and that his continued involvement with such activities might lead to discipline. Upon consideration of the evidence, I find that the mitigating factors do not outweigh the seriousness of the sustained charge. Further, [Mr. Fontenot's] inability to recognize that his conduct was improper and his failure to conform his behavior, even after he was put on notice that such behavior would not be tolerated, does not show much promise for rehabilitation. Under the circumstances, I find no basis to alter the penalty imposed by the agency." Fontenot v. United States Postal Serv., DA-075-96-0592-I-1, slip op. at 19 (MSPB Dec. 31, 1997).

Discussion

We may set aside the Board's decision only if we find its findings to be:

"(1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law;

(2) obtained without procedures required by law, rule, or regulation having been followed; or

(3) unsupported by substantial evidence . . . ." 5 U.S.C. § 7703(c) (1994).

Mr. Fontenot argues on appeal that the Board erred when it noted that he did not raise the issue of harmful error when the Board allowed statements of witnesses given to investigators after the USPS denied Mr. Fontenot requested copies. Mr. Fontenot asserts that he did raise harmful error in a prehearing submission regarding the USPS's denial of the copies.

Although the Board did state that Mr. Fontenot had not raised harmful error, the Board addressed the merits of his harmful error complaint and did not deem the objection to the ...


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