FSGB Grievant Asks @StateDept “Which Surnames Qualified as “Hispanic Surnames” #Census #Google

 

Via Record of Proceedings
FSGB Case No. 2020053 | October 22, 2021

I. BACKGROUND
The background of this case is described in detail in the June 17, 2021, Order: Motion to Compel issued by the Foreign Service Grievance Board (“FSGB” or the “Board”). That Order required the Department to provide additional responses to grievant’s initial discovery requests including grievant’s Interrogatory #1 which sought disaggregated statistics on rates of tenure for Foreign Service Generalist career candidates with Hispanic surnames who were considered for tenure during a specified five-year period, as compared with the tenure rate for other candidates.

On July 7, 2021, the Department responded to grievant’s Interrogatory #1.

Grievant was dissatisfied with the response and on July 14, 2021, he requested clarification of how the Department determined which surnames were Hispanic. The Department responded the same day, explaining how it had determined which surnames were Hispanic.

On July 27, 2021, grievant made a follow-on discovery request, seeking a list of the surnames the Department determined to be Hispanic and a list of the surnames of the candidates who had non-Hispanic surnames and were denied tenure.

On August 25, 2021, the Department objected to grievant’s July 27, 2021 request. The parties met and conferred on grievant’s discovery request and the Department’s objection, without reaching agreement.

In a motion to compel, the burden is on the requesting party to prove the merits of the motion. FSGB Case No. 2016-027 (Order, dated October 28, 2016); FSGB Case No. 2011-013 (Order, dated September 28, 2011).

Excerpt:

B. SECOND MOTION TO COMPEL

Interrogatory #1
Interrogatory #1 states as follows:

Please provide disaggregated statistics on rates of tenure for minority Foreign Service Generalists as compared to white Foreign Service Generalists between March 9, 2014 and March 4, 2019.

Department’s Response:
On July 7, 2021, The Department provided the following data for Foreign Service Generalist Tenure Candidates reviewed from March 2014-March 2019:

Candidates with Hispanic Surnames – 108
3 denied tenure = 2.8%

105 recommended for tenure = 97.2%


Candidates with non-Hispanic Surnames – 1871

48 denied tenure = 2.6%

1823 recommended for tenure = 97.4%

Grievant asked the Department how it determined which surnames qualified as “Hispanic surnames.”

Department’s Response to Request for Clarification

The Department responded that it accessed publicly available 2010 Census data and “pulled the record of last names where more than 50% of respondents by that name identified as being Hispanic.” There were 199 Hispanic surnames on the Census list and the Department cross-referenced those names with the cumulative list of tenure candidates. The Department then looked at all of the remaining names and identified other Hispanic surnames that did not appear on the Census list. To confirm, the Department checked those names for Spanish/Hispanic origin via Google search. Lastly, the Department checked a random assortment of the remaining names on the list of tenure candidates to confirm that they were other than Hispanic.

Relevance of the Follow-On Interrogatory

In the instant case, grievant alleges that the CTB discriminated against him because of his Hispanic surnames. Grievant has not alleged that he has direct evidence, relying entirely on statistics. To establish a prima facie case based on statistics, grievant must establish that Hispanic surnamed candidates were tenured at a statistically significantly lower rate than non-Hispanic surnamed candidates. Accordingly, the surnames of the candidates who were tenured, and those who were denied tenure, clearly are relevant to grievant’s claim, just as the gender of candidates would be relevant to a claim of sex discrimination.
[…]
the Privacy Act does not prohibit disclosure of Human Resources information about comparator employees to a grievant if ordered by the Board.
[…]
The Board has determined that grievant is entitled to know what surnames are considered Hispanic for purposes of the Department’s discovery responses. At the same time, the other candidates deserve privacy regarding their tenuring decisions. To accommodate those competing interests, the Board will order the Department to respond anew to grievant’s Interrogatory #1, as set forth in Section IV, infra.

IV. ORDER

Grievant’s Second Motion to Compel is granted in part and denied in part, as follows:

1. Within 14 days of this Order, the Department shall email grievant the list of 199 Hispanic surnames the Department previously identified from the Census data.

2. Within 14 days of the Department’s email, grievant shall email the Department a list of any of the 199 surnames that grievant considers not to be Hispanic (“List A”), and a separate list of any surnames not on the list of 199 that grievant considers to be Hispanic (“List B”) and the source of the surnames. Grievant may use any source of surnames for List B, e.g., lists publicly available on the Internet. If grievant fails to email List A and List B to the Department by this deadline, grievant shall be deemed to have waived any further response to Interrogatory #1, and grievant’s discovery shall be considered complete.

3. Within 21 days of grievant’s email, the Department shall email grievant a revised response to Interrogatory #1, using the 199 surnames from the Census data after striking the surnames on List A and adding the surnames on List B, thereby creating List C. At that point grievant’s discovery shall be considered complete. The Department may not object to responding to Interrogatory #1 using List C. ….

4. The Board denies grievant’s request for the list of the surnames the Department determined to be Hispanic and a list of the surnames the Department determined to be non-Hispanic surnames and were denied tenure.

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Read more: 2020-053 – 10-22-2021 – B – Order re Second Motion to Compel_Redacted.pdf
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Court on FSGB tenure denial case: “ignores significant parts of record and fails to connect rationally”

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The 2016 Annual report of the Foreign Service Grievance Board only mentions the Aragon v. Tillerson case in passing as follows:

Daniel P. Aragon, a former Foreign Service career candidate at the Department of State, filed an appeal on January 29, 2016, with the District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the Board’s denial of his appeal in FSGB Case No. 2014-034. Mr. Aragon had contested two EERs and the withholding of tenure and involuntary separation that flowed from those EERs.

This case was filed in 2016. Per Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, the Court substituted as defendant the current Secretary of State,Rex Tillerson, for former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has harsh words for the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) on this specific case:

The plaintiff, the Foreign Service, and American taxpayers have invested heavily in the plaintiff’s career as a Foreign Service officer, and the FSGB does a disservice when it renders a decision that ignores significant parts of record and fails to connect rationally the underlying facts to its ultimate conclusion. This is what the FSGB did in finding that the May and November 2013 EERs were not falsely prejudicial. For these reasons, the FSGB’s decision is vacated with respect to its conclusion that these EERs were not falsely prejudicial, and this action is remanded to the FSGB for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.21

Quick summary of the case:

The plaintiff, Daniel Aragon, served as an entry-level Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State for five years, until he was denied tenure and involuntarily separated in 2014. The reason for the tenure denial arose during the plaintiff’s second overseas assignment, when the plaintiff was responsible for supervising an employee, whose undisputed pattern of insubordination, tardiness, abuse of leave policies and performance issues would, in many work environments, warrant termination of employment. Instead, the plaintiff’s management efforts, which were ultimately successful, to bring this employee into compliance with basic workplace rules, has led to the plaintiff’s own termination from a job he “love[s].” AR at 354.1

The plaintiff filed the instant action against the Secretary of State, in the Secretary’s official capacity, after the State Department denied his grievance contesting the performance evaluations on which the tenure denial was predicated, and the Foreign Service Grievance Board (“FSGB”) upheld the State Department’s decision.2 Alleging that the FSGB’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law,” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), the plaintiff seeks, inter alia, an order directing the State Department to remove from his personnel file the two performance evaluations on which the denial of tenure was predicated, Compl., Relief ¶ 3, ECF No. 1; an order rescinding the tenure decisions predicated on those evaluations, id.; an order directing the State Department to reinstate the plaintiff retroactively, with back pay and benefits, id. ¶ 4; and an order directing the State Department to place the plaintiff in the same promotional class he would be in had he received tenure in the winter of 2013, id. ¶ 5. Pending before the Court are the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, see generally Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.’s MSJ”), ECF No. 12, and the Secretary’s cross-motion for summary judgment, see generally Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. (“Defs.’ MSJ”), ECF No. 14. For the reasons set out below, the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part, without prejudice, the Secretary’s cross-motion for summary judgment is denied without prejudice, and this action is remanded to the FSGB for further proceedings.

What the what? Excerpt from court’s opinion:

[T]he record shows that the CPS [cultural program specialist FSN] had an “apparent pattern” of abusing sick leave and would disappear from work for extended periods of time. Id. at 42; see also id. at 335 (describing the manner in which the CPS “took sick leave immediately before or after a block of annual leave[, which] suggest[ed] that she was abusing sick leave in order to augment her annual leave”). This apparently lax office culture was extant before the plaintiff’s arrival, leaving him with the task of changing that culture to ensure that employees, such as the CPS, on the U.S. Government payroll complied with the most basic work performance rules of coming to work on time and providing notice of absences.”

Lip service to evidence

The FSGB paid this evidence lip service in the section of its decision summarizing the plaintiff’s claims, see id. at 405, but the Board did not refer to it, let alone grapple with it, in deciding that the AFI concerning the counseling session was not falsely prejudicial for completely omitting any reference to the events giving rise to the counseling session or the context, in which even before the plaintiff’s arrival, the Dubai office had such deficient management that the CPS was able to develop and engage in a pattern of poor work behavior.

Fails to connect rationally …

That prior agency management in Dubai allowed such poor work habits to persist likely made the plaintiff’s effort to enforce the most basic workplace rules more difficult and makes it all the more impressive that the plaintiff was, apparently, ultimately successful in reining in the CPS’s behavior. See, e.g., AR at 42 (noting that after the plaintiff spoke with the CPS about her “apparent pattern of abusing sick leave, . . . there were no further incidents of suspected leave abuse during the rating period”). As the FSGB itself has noted, a supervisor will “almost inevitabl[y]” have “a difficult relationship” with an employee when the supervisor “is trying to effect changes” in the employee’s behavior. FSGB Op. 2006-052 at 13.

Read in full below:

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