Abusive, Offensive, Indecent, Disgraceful, Disrespectful, Insolent, or Inflammatory Language Charge

December 28, 2020

In order to prove the Charge of Abusive, Offensive, Indecent, Disgraceful, Disrespectful, Insolent, or Inflammatory Language at the Merit Systems Protection Board (“MSPB”), an agency must prove by preponderance of evidence that the employee: (1) made certain comments; and (2) the comments were abusive, insolent, or offensive.


The MSPB has no specific definition of what constitutes “disrespectful, ”“offensive,” “indecent,” or similar terms, but has stated that the charge is referring to language commonly considered to be vulgar and profane, such as curse words and racial slurs.


The agency does not have to show intent on the part of the employee. If the Agency frames the charge in a way that incorporates intent, however, an employee can assert that intent was not proven as a defense. The charge does not require that the employee directed the remarks to the person of whom he/she was speaking. Joking is not a defense, though an employee cannot be held responsible what is said in a purely private, non-disruptive conversation of matter of public concern between friends.


Effective defenses to this charge include attacking the charge for being vague, asserting that the charges were duplicative of other charges and/or merged with other charges, showing that the conduct did not occur as alleged, asserting that the statements occurred in connection with the exercise of protected rights, or showing that the agency committed disability discrimination.


The federal employment attorneys at Melville Johnson, P.C. are highly experienced in MSPB matters such as these, and are willing and able to assist you in your federal employment legal matters.


This blog and web site published by Melville Johnson, P.C. should not be used as a substitute for seeking competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this blog or website without seeking professional counsel.
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