By Dan Gephart, September 14, 2021

Ever hear about the Federal employee who walked out of Whole Foods without paying for the two tacos in his hands? When stopped by security, he claimed he “thought the tacos were comped for Federal employees.”

Or how about the Fed who paid for his family’s entire Disney vacation with his government credit card? It was an accident, he said. He meant to use his own card. Yes, sure, it was an accident when he paid for the flight. And again, when he paid for the hotel. And again, when he paid for the rental car.

But what if the taco-buying Fed really did think he was comped? I don’t know, maybe he missed his day of ethics training. Or what if the Disney vacationer’s personal credit card looked almost identical to his government card?

Sometimes an employee’s excuse for misconduct may sound as illogical as the concept to the Broadway show Cats. Before you laugh off the premise, though, give it some consideration. After all, the MSPB once reversed an employee’s removal for failing a drug test when his excuse was that his soon-to-be-ex-wife laced his cigar with marijuana. The ol’ “my wife put weed in my cigar” excuse? Come on! That sounds like our drug-tested Fed was blowing smoke. But guess what? The evidence backed it up. After lacing the cigar, the wife called the employee’s supervisor and suggested her husband be drug-tested.

That evidence, however, was clearly missing for the IT specialist in Hansen v. DHS, No. 2017-2584 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 28, 2018). A random drug test revealed marijuana in his system and the agency proposed his removal for “positive test for illegal drug use— marijuana.”

The appellant claimed he unknowingly consumed drug-laced brownies at a party. Who hosted the party and secretly served pot brownies to unsuspecting guests? Well, the appellant didn’t actually “know” the host. In fact, he claimed, he didn’t even know the brownies were made with marijuana until days later. He said he never felt the effects of the marijuana and attributed what he did feel (mostly nauseous) to eating bratwurst.

The MSPB found that he failed to meet his burden of “showing such inadvertent ingestion” and affirmed his removal.

For more on Hansen and other similar cases, join FELTG President Deborah Hopkins, starting at 9:30 am ET on Thursday, September 30 for High Times and Misdemeanors: Weed and the Federal Workplace. If you’re looking for guidance on handling off-duty misbehavior in general, join FELTG Instructor Bob Woods for Got Nexus? Accountability for Off-duty Conduct on Tuesday, September 28, starting at 11:15 am ET.  Both sessions are part of our Federal Workplace 2021: Accountability, Challenges and Trends event, which runs event runs September 27-October 1. Click here to find out more about this exciting annual event. [email protected]

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