Passing Grades Case Study Term Paper
This case involves a problem in the Regional Office of the Social Security Department. Many individuals who frequented the office have become victims of identity theft. Their personal information have been used to file fraudulent tax returns which generated several million dollars. Twenty individuals were employed as customer service agents in the Regional Office. The investigators in the case were unable to discover the root of the problem. There are two alternatives in question, were the Social Security employees involved in an in-house scheme or was the Social Security computer system hacked by outside parties?
The first alternative is to consider the Social Security Department’s computer system was hacked and may have been caused by:
- The employees failure to follow proper procedures when they entered personal information into the computer system in violation of department policy.
- A previously unknown design flaw in the Social Security privacy system which enabled hackers to gain access.
The second alternative, the independent consultants have stated if the identity theft was the product of in-house scheme it would most likely be due to one of three causes:
- The employees needed money related to financial hardship acquired over the past two years.
- The employees needed money related to a gambling or drug problem.
- The employees with a level of hostility towards the department due to feelings of mistreatment.
To exclude employee corruption The Social Security Department ordered the twenty employees to complete mandatory drug and lie detector tests. Sixteen employees took the lie detector and drug exams. One person failed the drug test and was suspended without pay pending a hearing, another individual failed the lie detector test and was also suspended without pay pending a hearing. Two people refused to take the drug test and were immediately fired. Two individuals refused to take the lie detector exam and were suspended without pay pending a hearing. One person took the lie detector exam, but the results were inconclusive and the individual was suspended with pay pending another exam eventually. The two individuals who were fired, immediately filed lawsuits against the Social Security Department for unfair termination. The individual who received inconclusive lie detector results also sued the department, claimed unfair labor practice.
The relevant Statutes related to the case study include:
- Under the law, the Social Security employees have a property right in their jobs and are entitled to all procedures and protections without respect to any adverse action taken.
- The results of a lie detector test may not be admitted at a criminal or civil trial, maybe used in an administrative termination hearing.
- The 5th Amendment provides a right against self incrimination.
The relevant Policies are:
- Employees have a duty of cooperation with an internal investigation and may be terminated for failure to cooperate with an internal investigation.
- Employees who are subjected to possible adverse action shall be advised of their Garrity/Kalkines warnings.
- All Social security employees have the right to a hearing on the allegations prior to imposition of any adverse action.
Upon further evaluation and study of the case at hand, I have concluded the identity theft issue cannot be accurately determined and the Social Security Department subjected the twenty employees to mistreatment. The Social Security Department has twenty customer service agents working in the regional office. It is unclear which employee is responsible for the identity theft. It is known, none of the twenty employees exhibited any obvious signs of illness, debt or resentment in the past. There is no reason to believe the department’s computer system was hacked by outside parties. Computer hackers would break into the entire organization’s system not just one specific department. The computer system is held hostage freezing the system until a ransom is paid Investigators were unable to establish the true cause of the security breach within the Social Security department. The outcome of the investigation was unconfirmed (could not prove it was an in-house scam or computer hackers). Therefore, the department cannot penalize employees or issue mandatory tests based on suspicions or speculation.
The Social Security Department’s decision to require all twenty employees to participate in compulsory testing was based on pure speculation. The 1986 Executive Order 12564 issued by President Reagan authorizes agencies to test federal employees in sensitive positions for illegal drug use in four circumstances: 1. Where there is a reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use, 2. In a post-accident investigation, 3. As part of counseling or rehabilitation for drug use through an employee assistance program, and 4. To screen any job applicant (Berman, Bowman, West, & Van Wart, 2010, p. 59). In this case there is no reason to suspect the twenty employees of using drugs, no employee was enrolled in a counseling or rehabilitation program, and none of the individuals was new job applicants.The employees have no previous history of drug use. It is known, the link between prior drug use and possible employee corruption is implausible.
According to (Berman et al., 2010) “current employees in positions that do not impact safety may be tested only with reasonable suspicion … Reasonable suspicion means information which would lead a reasonable person to suspect on-the-job drug use, possession, or impairment” (p. 59). There were no drugs found on the premises or within the employees belongings. None of the twenty employees appeared to be impaired or intoxicated during their hours of employment. There is no evidence that the funds from the illegal tax returns were ever used to purchase any forms of narcotics. There is no indication or record of observable signs that would lead the department to assume any of the twenty employees were engaged in drug use.
The two Social Security employees who were fired immediately for refusing to take the drug test filed lawsuits for unfair termination. The individuals did not receive a hearing before or after termination of their jobs. The law states, Social Security employees have a property right in their jobs and entitled to all pro”cedures and protections without respect to any adverse action taken. An adverse action is defined as a formal discipline of an employee (which includes suspensions, salary reductions, demotions, and terminations) and usually institutes the right to a hearing. In addition, the Policy declares, all Social Security employees have the right to a hearing on the allegations prior to imposition of any adverse action. It is known, when employees have property interest in their jobs they also have due process rights and may not be dismissed unless actions intended to guarantee fairness are executed. Research by Berman et al., (2010) supports this view “If an employee has a property interest in employment, he or she cannot be discharged except for cause and he or she must be provided with due process before adverse action can be taken” (p. 73).
The two employees are entitled to refuse the drug test based on their 5th Amendment constitutional right to self-incrimination. The Policy indicates employees have a duty of cooperation with an internal investigation and may be terminated for failure to cooperate with an investigation. Although the two employees refused to cooperate with the internal investigation and was ultimately discharged, they still have property rights in their jobs and are entitled to obtain due process including a hearing, which they never received. The Social Security Department has a legal obligation to assign a hearing for the two individuals who were dismissed, no hearing was provided and illustrated an example of unfair termination. Was the drug test justified? The mandatory and random drug test was not justified in this case.
The individual who was suspended based on inconclusive lie detector results sued The Social Security Department, claimed unfair labor practice. The employee was suspended pending another exam and was not given a hearing. Inconclusive polygraph results does not prove guilt or innocence, it is simply undetermined. The validity of lie detector tests can be debated and are questionable. Lie detectors are not designed to substantiate the facts of an inquiry and can be manipulated. Many guilty parties have passed lie detector examinations and innocent individuals have failed the exam. The individual has a property right in employment and should receive due process under the law. According to (Riccucci, Naff, Shafritz, & Rosenbloom, 2008) “ the essential requirements of due process are notice and an opportunity to respond and present reasons, either in person or in writing … The employee is entitled to oral or written notice of the charges against him or her, an explanation of the employer’s evidence, and an opportunity to present his or her side of the story” (p. 125). In this circumstance the employee did not obtain a hearing before the suspension, in violation of the individuals due process rights and a demonstration of unfair labor practice.
It is evident, the employee was not granted a hearing or advised of his or her Garrity and Kalkines warnings prior to suspension. The employees were ordered to answer questions during the polygraph exam and they should have been given Garrity warnings. The Policy states, employees who are subjected to possible adverse action shall be advised of their Garrity (the right not to incriminate oneself) and Kalkines (provides immunity for statements) warnings. The Garrity warnings (Garrity V. New Jersey 1967) and the Kalkines warnings (Kalkines V. United states 1973) assists in securing the individual’s constitutional rights as well as helps the investigators manage internal administrative investigations. The employee received no Garrity or Kalknines warnings and was reprimanded for unproven polygraph results. In addition, the employee had the opportunity to invoke his or her 5th Amendment right not to give a statement or complete the lie detector test due to self-incrimination, since no previous warnings were given. Public agencies are allowed to use lie detector exams for pre-employment screening and employee discipline purposes. Presently, there are legal restrictions concerning the correct methods on administrating lie detector exams to current employees. Do employers have the right to subject an individual to adverse impact when exams are inconclusive? No, The Social Security Department did not have the authority to subject the employee to suspension when the lie detector test was inconclusive.
The Social Security Department had no grounds to speculate and administer the drug and polygraph exams to the twenty employees. The statute indicates, The 5th Amendment provides the right against self incrimination. The individuals had the 5th Amendment right to refuse the exams due to self-incrimination. All employees were not required to perform mandatory exams, just the individuals in the Social Security Department. The guilty party could have been an individual employed in another branch within the organization. The investigation was limited only to the twenty employees in the Social Security Regional Office. In this situation all employees had the legal right to receive a hearing on the allegations prior to any adverse action taken against them. It is apparent, several employees were suspended or dismissed and then granted hearings, while other individuals were fired and were never granted hearings. The employees experienced adverse impact due to their refusal to complete the compulsory exams. The employees were not treated fairly. There was no reasonable suspicion to require mandatory drug and lie detector tests for the twenty employees. There was no rational basis to believe the employees had prior gambling debts, a history of drug use, or a strong need for money based on extreme financial hardship. The drug and lie detector tests were not justified in this case.
The Social Security Department handled the situation inefficiently, the entire investigation was a failure and many employees were unfairly mistreated as a result. It is obvious there is an identity theft problem in the regional office of the Social Security Department. However, the investigation was unsuccessful and unfortunately no one was held liable for the crime. There is no concrete evidence to prove it was computer hackers or an internal conspiracy. The mandatory tests was based on absolute speculation and the investigators portrayed extreme negligence in the performance of their duties. I am convinced the department mistreated their employees and the unfair termination and labor practice lawsuits are warranted. I conclude, the identity theft issue cannot be accurately determined and the Social Security Department subjected the twenty employees to unfair and discriminatory treatment.
Berman, Evan, M., Bowman, James, S., West, Jonathan, P., & Van Wart, Montgomery, R. (2010). Human Resource Management in Public Service: Paradoxes, Processes, and Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
Riccucci, Norma, M., Naff, Katherine, C., Shafritz, Jay, M., & Rosenbloom, David, H. (2008). Personnel Management in Government: Politics and Process. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.