The Foreign Service Journal, June 2021

AFSA NEWS 54 JUNE 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FSGB 2020 Annual Report Cases Are Up for the Foreign Service Grievance Board The Foreign Service Grievance Board is the sole independent grievance appeals body of the Foreign Service and ensures the fullest measure of due process for FS employees. The Foreign Service Grievance Board closed 66 cases in 2020. That’s about the same as were resolved in 2019, despite the pandemic, according to the FSGB’s 2020 annual report. At the same time, the board received 64 new cases in 2020, 10 more than it received in 2019. About two-thirds of board members are experienced Foreign Service annuitants who have served in the vari- ous foreign affairs agencies, and about one-third are legal professionals, primarily retired judges, lawyers and arbitrators. AFSA’s Labor Manage- ment staff assist members with agency-level grievances, as well as with appeals to the FSGB. Currently, LM is assisting members with 281 grievances at either the agency or board level. The person filing the grievance has the burden of proof in all cases except where the agency in ques- tion is trying to take dis- ciplinary action. In those cases, the agency has the burden of proof. Staffing of the FSGB was complicated in 2020 by delay in the reappointment of the board’s senior adviser and two annuitant members, and delay in the appoint- ment of five new board members, by then–Secre- tary of State Mike Pompeo. (Secretary of State Antony Blinken reappointed the exit- ing members and appointed the new members shortly after taking office this year.) A Look at the 2020 Numbers The FSGB closed 15 financial, eight discipline, 17 evaluation/performance and 16 separation cases, among others, in 2020. In these cases, the FSGB affirmed the foreign affairs agency decision 42 percent of the time, while it reversed agency decisions nine per- cent of the time. Twenty-four percent of cases were settled, while the FSGB partially affirmed and partly reversed agency decisions in eight percent of cases. In 2020, the FSGB resolved 17 cases in which employees claimed errors in Employee Evaluation Reports and other aspects of the Official Performance Folder. In six decisions, the relevant foreign affairs agency was affirmed and in three decisions, the agency was reversed. Five cases were settled and withdrawn, while one was dismissed as moot after the agency voluntary granted relief while the case was pending. Two were dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. The FSGB resolved eight discipline cases in 2020, half of which involved Visa Lookout Accountability viola- tions. The FSGB upheld the agency’s discipline determi- nation in three of those VLA violation cases, while revers- ing the agency’s letter of reprimand in a fourth case. The board resolved two cases involving unwanted sexual contact, affirming the agency’s decision in one case and partially reversing the agency’s decision in the other. The FSGB closed 16 cases involving separation for cause, “time in class” expiration or denial of tenure. In four cases, the board affirmed the agency’s decision, while in five cases, it reversed the decision. Five cases were settled or withdrawn before the board reached a decision, and two were dismissed in their entirety. The board resolved 15 cases in 2020 involving financial claims. Issues included debts resulting from overpayment by the agency; per diem disputes; initial salary determination; discriminatory fine for dam- ages; and disability retire- ment calculations. The FSGB affirmed the agency’s decision eight times and reversed the decision once. Four cases were settled or withdrawn; one was dismissed for lack of timeliness; and one was remanded to the agency to await a decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on parallel issues. Established in 1976 The FSGB was estab- lished by Congress in 1976 after years of AFSA advocacy. Each member is appointed by the Secre- tary of State from a list of nominees jointly submitted by AFSA and the agencies utilizing the Foreign Service personnel system. Terms of office are two years, subject to renewal. Visit guidance to learn more about common types of grievances and about the grievance process. The annual report features descriptions of numerous cases, without naming complainants. Visit to learn more about the board and to read the full annual report. n