Melville Johnson
October 27, 2020

Threats of harm against a government employee are, understandably, taken seriously. However, sometimes it is difficult for an agency to determine if a threat has actually been made, or if a person is simply talking out of frustration or anger.


This charge requires considering the circumstances surrounding any threatening statements or conduct. While not dispositive, the speaker’s intent is significant. For example, there may be circumstances in which an employee commits conduct that is viewed as a threat, but the employee is incapable of formulating intent because of mental illness.


To sustain this charge, the Agency must establish that: (1) the employee made certain statements; and (2) the statements constituted a threat when viewed from the perspective of a reasonable person. Metz v. Dept. of Treasury, 780 F.2d1001 (Fed. Cir. 1986). Whether a statement constitutes a threat from a reasonable person’s view is based on the following factors: the listener's reaction; the listener’s apprehension of harm; the speaker’s intent; any conditional nature of the statements; and the attendant circumstances.


There are numerous defenses to a threat charge. Some of the key defenses centers include whether the remarks were made during a confidential process, whether the listener's reaction was consistent with a threat, whether the speaker’s intent was consistent with a threat, whether the conditional nature of the remarks weighs against a threat, and if there were any due process violations.


The federal employee 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. Call or message us today to discuss your situation and learn how we can assist you.

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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