The State Department acted properly when it punished an employee for refusing to carry out a rule-breaking assignment, a federal court has decided, setting a new precedent in the federal workforce.
The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a ruling originally determined by the Merit Systems Protection Board in Rainey v. State, in which an employee argued the department improperly gave him a poor performance review and took away responsibilities when he refused to carry out a directive that went against federal rules. Instead, the court affirmed in a precedent-setting opinion, State was permitted to take those actions because rules and regulations do not qualify as federal statute.
The Whistleblower Protection Act protects a federal employee from retaliation “for refusing to obey an order that would require the individual to violate a law.” Timothy Rainey was instructed by a supervisor to compel a contractor to rehire a fired subcontractor, according to court documents. Such a request violates a provision of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), and Rainey refused to carry out the order.
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