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bizarrojoe  
#1 Posted : Thursday, November 09, 2017 9:54:50 AM(UTC)
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I decided to share my story since I'm at the end of a long stretch of difficulties. I won't share the details of who I worked for (for fear of retribution), but I'll be as candid as possible. I'm not looking for advice, I only really want to add my experience to the records of other federal employees who have faced adverse actions.

I'll put the worst of it up front: I viewed porn at work,and I was a supervisor, and I bypassed my network to do it. I'm ashamed and remorseful of my actions, and I absolutely deserved some kind of discipline. I understand many people will pass judgement on me, and that's okay. This isn't necessarily a story of whether I deserved to be fired, it's a story of a traumatizing process.

I was promoted to a team lead after seven years of flawless service (verified in all my personnel records). However, the pressure of the role was more than I could handle (although on the surface I was as successful as I ever was before). I sought treatment for anxiety and depression, and for a year I was prescribed all sorts of medications. I experienced tons of side effects and withdrawal symptoms, and often felt more fear and apathy than when I went without the meds. It was during this time that I locked myself away in my office, and watched porn. Based on my analysis of the forensic report, I spent about 20 minutes in total doing this on lunch breaks or after hours. Personally, I had no recollection of when or how long I misused my work computer in this way. I do recall, however, spending a lot of time on Reddit.

IT found out, my PC was confiscated, and I was terrified of what I had possibly done. I changed my doctors and therapists (even before I was investigated), learned that I suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and continued to seek rehabilitation. Eight months later, following the forensic investigation, I was sent home on administrative leave. For five weeks I sat at home, never knowing what was going on. Then, I was brought in and told that my supervisor recommended removal. I was sent back home with the forensic report, which suggested that I visited thousands of sites (I didn't) over many months (again, I didn't). The report was poorly put together, and only presented raw data, not any conclusions. Meanwhile, I had to present an oral and written rebuttal within 20 days, and no lawyer would take the case because of the short time frame (no extensions were acceptable).

I spent most of my free time researching the report's data, knowing that something was wrong with the findings. For example, my supervisor suggested that the report concluded that I visited a single site over 1200 times in a single day! I found a forensic analyst that confirmed, in writing, that the bulk of the data was misleading and not to be trusted at face value. I also received letters from my new psychiatrist and psychologist confirming that the pace of improper medication during the period in question contributed to my temporary lapse in judgement, and that I was well rehabilitated from when I made my poor choices. Plus, there was written evidence showing that although I broke ethical and IT rules, my performance as a leader of my team was outstanding. My team had no idea any of this was going on.

I presented all of my evidence to the deciding official, in addition to my interpretation of the Douglas Factors, twice over a six month period. But despite my best efforts, none of the evidence mattered. The decision remained to remove me, with no explanation as to why the evidence failed to impact the original decision. And why did it take six months? Why waste so much time and money, just to toss me away? What was I missing from the equation? These were questions that haunted me (and still do).

I elected not to file an appeal. I didn't want to spend time and money fighting an organization that didn't value my contributions and didn't want me back. It was a hellish experience that defied logic to me. My family, friends, and doctors all sided with my evidence and interpretation of things. The waiting only exacerbated my Generalized Anxiety Disorder (which my supervisor knew about), and made my rehabilitation all the more challenging.

Fortunately, I found a new job and I'm leaps and bound better with my new doctors. My family and I are happier and looking forward to a new chapter.

So that's my story. The discipline process was unforgiving, nontransparent, and heavily stacked against me. I never felt that I was fairly treated or had a real chance to defend myself, regardless of what due process I was supposed to be afforded on paper. I don't know if things are handled similarly throughout the government, but if it is then I'm glad to no longer be a part of it.

Edited by user Sunday, November 12, 2017 10:02:16 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

frankgonzalez  
#2 Posted : Thursday, November 09, 2017 11:18:49 AM(UTC)
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Sorry to hear, but glad you are in a better place.

I think the issues were:

1. Viewed Porn
2. Bypassed IT safeguards

Aggravating factor: Above done while you were a Supervisor

I'm guessing the charge was misuse of a government computer.

Sounds similar to Eric S. Watson, Appellant, v. Department of the Navy, Agency
U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Central Regional Office
CH-0752-15-0012-I-1
September 20, 2016

Removal was done in that case and upheld by the MSPB.

Resignation may have been your best option for a cleanish record.

You should have voted Cthulu...the greatest of all Evils
nightchop  
#3 Posted : Thursday, November 09, 2017 3:58:39 PM(UTC)

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Don't you still have to disclose on background checks that you resigned pending termination? If so, there really is no benefit to resigning once the writing is on the wall. It's more of an ego thing.
bizarrojoe  
#4 Posted : Thursday, November 09, 2017 6:25:18 PM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: nightchop Go to Quoted Post
Don't you still have to disclose on background checks that you resigned pending termination? If so, there really is no benefit to resigning once the writing is on the wall. It's more of an ego thing.


It was an ego thing, in part. I didn't want to give management the satisfaction of firing me; they already caused excessive damage to me and my family. I know there are other choices I could have made, including taking unemployment and filing various legal appeals. But my instincts told me to just walk away with some dignity, which I can't personally put a dollar value to.

There was just so much that felt wrong with the process, and the trauma was deep. I never felt I had all the information, I wasn't allowed to get the legal representation I wanted, I was never kept up to date despite assurances I would be, HR rarely returned my phone calls, none of my evidence seemed to alter the determination, and I was never permitted the opportunity to apologize to my team face-to-face. I've compared it to getting life in prison for stealing a pack of gum. There's no arguing that stealing is illegal and warrants punishment, but there's supposed to be a process in place to determine a fair and just penalty.

I don't plan on returning to the federal government for a while; maybe I'll come back under a different administration.
nightchop  
#5 Posted : Thursday, November 09, 2017 8:05:22 PM(UTC)

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I understand why you made that decision. Many people, private sector included, resign before getting fired. You're not alone. But coworkers are coworkers. Many times we lose contact with ones we saw as "friends". If an agency railroads an employee, resigning is just giving them a gift. Sometimes you gotta go balls to the wall. The agency will code the Sf50 to reflect the manner under which you resigned, and it's really no different than having a termination in the record. But it's always better to leave in the manner you desire, and that's what you did.

I wish you the best. In sure you'll rebound and do better.
nightstalker2  
#6 Posted : Thursday, November 09, 2017 8:40:06 PM(UTC)
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remember you are in charge of your life and it goes on when you leave and congratulations on your escape from hell.
FatHappyCat  
#7 Posted : Friday, November 10, 2017 4:21:35 AM(UTC)

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I won't comment about your case specifically, but I will say this: people do all sorts of illicit stuff at work during their downtime or lunch hour. You want to look at porn, there's nothing wrong with that, just don't do it on a government computer/network. I bring my pad/phone to work for the sole reason of doing stuff I would never do on a government computer such as looking for other jobs, posting ***** about Trump, watching youtube videos, etc.
DroneBee  
#8 Posted : Friday, November 10, 2017 8:07:28 AM(UTC)

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You did what was best for you - resigning instead of being fired. I wasn't given that option (I am a whistleblower who did nothing wrong) and was fired. It's amazing that there are so many generals who have done worse than you, and were given nothing but a slap on the wrist (if that), or, worst case, retired minus one star - they still get all the benefits of military retirement (healthcare, pension, etc.). So, my advice is to be happy that you are out!
Hawaiiannative  
#9 Posted : Sunday, November 12, 2017 9:28:48 AM(UTC)
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I agree, glad you are out. They probably wanted to get rid of you anyway, and you gave them a nice out. I have seen people do way worse than that, and get promoted.

They have to get more creative with people who are clean and they want them gone.

I wish you the best. No judging here. Stress can make us do strange things...
bizarrojoe  
#10 Posted : Sunday, November 12, 2017 10:16:18 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: frankgonzalez Go to Quoted Post
Sorry to hear, but glad you are in a better place.

I think the issues were:

1. Viewed Porn
2. Bypassed IT safeguards

Aggravating factor: Above done while you were a Supervisor

I'm guessing the charge was misuse of a government computer.

Sounds similar to Eric S. Watson, Appellant, v. Department of the Navy, Agency
U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Central Regional Office
CH-0752-15-0012-I-1
September 20, 2016

Removal was done in that case and upheld by the MSPB.

Resignation may have been your best option for a cleanish record.



Thanks. You're right on the issues. There was never any doubt what I was accused of. The really big problem was how management approached the Douglas Factors. I could tell that they had little to no experience with them, based on how poorly they approached them in their "worksheets". They blatantly disregarded factors that I though were critical to determining a fair penalty. For example, they didn't think that my outstanding record and complete lack of prior discipline had any merit. I'm also pretty confident that they just didn't understand the complexity of the case. On the surface, the forensic report made it seem like I was some kind of compulsive deviant slacker, spending all day breaching the network firewall to watch porn over the course of months. But I was able to prove that the evidence only showed that I had a single bad day; everything else was unsubstantiated nonsense.

Based on my limited understanding of what happened, I choose to conclude that my management was cowardly and unwilling to stand up for me, or give me the benefit of the doubt. I know that I'm not the only first-line supervisor in that office that felt unprotected by upper management, and it seems to be the most straightforward explanation.
frankgonzalez  
#11 Posted : Monday, November 13, 2017 7:44:54 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: bizarrojoe Go to Quoted Post
Originally Posted by: frankgonzalez Go to Quoted Post
Sorry to hear, but glad you are in a better place.

I think the issues were:

1. Viewed Porn
2. Bypassed IT safeguards

Aggravating factor: Above done while you were a Supervisor

I'm guessing the charge was misuse of a government computer.

Sounds similar to Eric S. Watson, Appellant, v. Department of the Navy, Agency
U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Central Regional Office
CH-0752-15-0012-I-1
September 20, 2016

Removal was done in that case and upheld by the MSPB.

Resignation may have been your best option for a cleanish record.



Thanks. You're right on the issues. There was never any doubt what I was accused of. The really big problem was how management approached the Douglas Factors. I could tell that they had little to no experience with them, based on how poorly they approached them in their "worksheets". They blatantly disregarded factors that I though were critical to determining a fair penalty. For example, they didn't think that my outstanding record and complete lack of prior discipline had any merit. I'm also pretty confident that they just didn't understand the complexity of the case. On the surface, the forensic report made it seem like I was some kind of compulsive deviant slacker, spending all day breaching the network firewall to watch porn over the course of months. But I was able to prove that the evidence only showed that I had a single bad day; everything else was unsubstantiated nonsense.

Based on my limited understanding of what happened, I choose to conclude that my management was cowardly and unwilling to stand up for me, or give me the benefit of the doubt. I know that I'm not the only first-line supervisor in that office that felt unprotected by upper management, and it seems to be the most straightforward explanation.
Just realize, only once is enough to terminate. And as long as they can prove that one time...MSPB is likely to uphold it. The bypassing the IT safeguards is likely to be the job killer with the aggravating factor of being a supervisor when you did it...especially with the issues with hacking right now. Bypassing those safeguards decreased the security of the agency network and left it vulnerable to outside hackers...(or words to that effect) would be the factor driving the decision.

As we used to say in the military "all the attaboys in the world don't matter when you have the one Oh crap!"

You should have voted Cthulu...the greatest of all Evils
FedCivServ  
#12 Posted : Friday, November 17, 2017 11:42:41 AM(UTC)

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In my agency, EITHER abuse of IT OR viewing porn on IT is a zero tolerance, "you are fired" policy - and you had both. And your leadership role did exacerbate the gravity of it. It sounds like you have gone through some rough times and that is unfortunate and it's great that you ended up in a place that suits you. But no matter how badly your management flubbed the situation YOU are the one (for whatever reasons) who did something that I would guess in all USG agencies is a fire-able offense. I would only recommend that you own what you did and then let it go... but learn from it in your new situation. Industry does not need to have a reason to let people go, sometimes they just do. I hope others also learn from your unfortunate situation -- just remember -- BIG BROTHER IS ALWAYS WATCHING...
hopie  
#13 Posted : Saturday, November 18, 2017 9:26:05 AM(UTC)
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I'm sorry that you're out of a job. I think it was the best choice to leave because they really had grounds to fire you so I wouldn't wonder what if. My supervisor wanted to fire me fo just checking my email slightly after work hours to look for his email reply regarding my work schedule the following day which he ignored during work hours. However, he was targeting me for needing a disability accommodation.

I saw a show about "compulsive sex addiction" the other day. I wouldn't imagine someone taking the risk of watching porn on their work computer unless this was the problem. I hope that you're able to heal from it. Best to you.
frankgonzalez  
#14 Posted : Monday, November 20, 2017 4:46:21 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: FedCivServ Go to Quoted Post
In my agency, EITHER abuse of IT OR viewing porn on IT is a zero tolerance, "you are fired" policy - and you had both. And your leadership role did exacerbate the gravity of it. It sounds like you have gone through some rough times and that is unfortunate and it's great that you ended up in a place that suits you. But no matter how badly your management flubbed the situation YOU are the one (for whatever reasons) who did something that I would guess in all USG agencies is a fire-able offense. I would only recommend that you own what you did and then let it go... but learn from it in your new situation. Industry does not need to have a reason to let people go, sometimes they just do. I hope others also learn from your unfortunate situation -- just remember -- BIG BROTHER IS ALWAYS WATCHING...
As i re-read this thread, I can see another way the agency could have pursued this with little to no recourse available to you and also destroy an y chance at a future position with any government (or even contractors who work for the gov). The could have used the "bypassed security protocols" to remove the security clearance, and then simply terminate based on a failure maintain the clearance...no appeals outside of the clearance channels, and rarely are those overturned.
You should have voted Cthulu...the greatest of all Evils
fedquestions7878  
#15 Posted : Wednesday, January 10, 2018 4:58:22 PM(UTC)
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I jumped on because I am a similar position but then I saw he viewed porn, lol. Facepalm. Here I am dealing with retaliation and discrimination, oh boy.

Does reinstatement eligibility help realistically if one chooses to resign? From what I read, it is better than nothing, but not likely to make a difference. Is that accurate?
frankgonzalez  
#16 Posted : Thursday, January 11, 2018 4:23:32 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: fedquestions7878 Go to Quoted Post
I jumped on because I am a similar position but then I saw he viewed porn, lol. Facepalm. Here I am dealing with retaliation and discrimination, oh boy.

Does reinstatement eligibility help realistically if one chooses to resign? From what I read, it is better than nothing, but not likely to make a difference. Is that accurate?
It allows you to apply as if you are still an employee vs fighting with everyone from the outside. That is why I think VEOA is better that vet pref points added. Smaller pool of applicants means fewer people to beat out for a position.

You should have voted Cthulu...the greatest of all Evils
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