Wednesday, July 1, 2009

You're Fired! But not yet...

When one of our employees ends up in hot water for a serious crime, the first thing we hear is “Why didn’t you can that employee on the spot?” Well, I went to our lawyers and asked that very same question and they fired me! (Joking) They graciously agreed to write a blog post. It kind of makes me feel bad about telling lawyer jokes at a party last night. (I’m kidding, I’m kidding…) Many thanks goes out to the TSA legal team for all they have done for our blog! ~ Blogger Bob

From our Lawyers:

Our Blog readers have asked why TSA simply does not fire an employee “on the spot” when the employee is arrested for a serious crime. Here is a general answer to that question.

Like other Federal employees, TSA employees who have completed a trial period (or probationary period, if applicable) are entitled to certain procedural safeguards and due process prior to removal from their government position.

The procedural safeguards for TSA non-trial period employees are set forth in TSA’s policy on addressing unacceptable performance and conduct. Prior to being removed, an employee is entitled to receive written notice of the agency’s proposal to terminate their employment, entitled to review any and all evidence relied upon, and the employee must be given an opportunity to respond to the alleged misconduct, orally and/or in writing. This is the “due process” referenced above.

TSA must have sufficient factual information to propose an employee’s removal. Arrests are usually based on off-duty misconduct, and TSA will not likely have sufficient information/evidence to immediately initiate a removal, even if the arrest is based on a serious violation of law. TSA officials work closely with Federal, state and/or local law enforcement officials to gather all of the information necessary to take appropriate action. Once the information/evidence is gathered, the proposal to remove is issued and the employee generally has seven days to respond to the proposed removal.

An indefinite suspension is also an option available to TSA management when an employee has been arrested, there is more than a mere suspicion or allegation of misconduct, and management believes prompt action is necessary. An employee who is indefinitely suspended is not in the work place and does not receive pay during the indefinite suspension. In the interim, TSA decides how to address the misconduct.

By placing an employee who has been arrested for a serious crime on indefinite suspension, TSA can protect the security of other TSA employees and the traveling public while taking the time to effectively investigate the misconduct and provide the affected employee with his/her job related procedural safeguards.

In certain cases involving Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), TSA has special authorities, which enable us to act more quickly when TSOs engage in serious misconduct. Specifically, when there is clear evidence that TSOs have engaged in conduct involving theft, illegal drugs or alcohol use on duty, managers may issue what we refer to as a “one step” removal notice, which immediately terminates their employment. Similarly, when the agency becomes aware of allegations of TSOs engaging in serious misconduct but needs to gather additional information, a “one step” indefinite suspension may be used. In these “one step” actions, the employee is provided the opportunity to respond before the “one step” removal or “one-step” indefinite suspension is effected. This opportunity to respond is known as the “pre-decisional” provision under TSA policy and comports with due process requirements. The “one-step” concept allows management to effect the action immediately after the pre-decisional requirement is completed, if appropriate.

In most cases, the agency spokespeople cannot disclose exactly what disciplinary action, if any, is taken against an employee. This is because specific information concerning employees, including any disciplinary action taken, is protected by the Privacy Act, which often constrains us from disclosing the information. Even if we cannot tell the public these details, rest assured that TSA takes such issues very seriously and will take appropriate action to address any misconduct.

This has been a word from our TSA Lawyers.

Clear: What Gives?

First off, for those of you who aren’t familiar, Clear was one of the three Registered Traveler programs that allowed you to move to the front of the line after paying them a fee and providing some info for ID purposes. It was money that many road warriors will willing to spend to save some time.

Last week, Clear announced they were ceasing operations.

Clear was not a TSA program, but many are looking to TSA for answers. Here are some of the questions that keep popping up:

Can I still use my Clear card as ID at a TSA checkpoint?

Clear cards are no longer accepted as a primary form of ID.Are there any other Registered Traveler programs in operation right now?Yes. Two service providers remain in operation at this time. FLO Corporation and Vigilant Solutions.

What’s going to happen to the customer data that Clear collected? Is it secure?

Questions about how the data is managed should be directed to Clear.

Will there be another company that takes over the program in airports?

Good question. This is a market-driven, private sector venture offered in partnership with airports and airlines. Another vender could potentially enter the field.

Will Clear members be able to transfer memberships to other service providers?

That decision is between CLEAR, the other service provider, and the card holder.

After TSA’s pilot ended in July 2008, all RT service providers were obligated to follow data security standards to continue offering service. Service providers’ use of data, however, is regulated under its own privacy policy and by its relationship with its customers and sponsoring airport or airline. The information provided to TSA during the pilot will be destroyed as shown in the schedule on our web page.

***Update. This post was edited on 7/2/09 at 1300 to reflect additional information that was provided after it went live. ***