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Judges Call for More Data on Soil Scientist’s Firing

(CN) - A former soil research scientist for the Department of Agriculture won his bid to have the Merit Systems Protection Board reconsider his firing for poor performance. The Federal Circuit called for more information on whether the agency's performance-review system had been approved when the department fired Dr. Floyd Adamsen.

After being placed on two "performance improvement plans," Adamsen was fired for his "unacceptable" performance in 2006. His supervisor said Adamsen "failed to provide a thorough analysis of fertigation injection strategies." Fertigation is a process of mixing water and nutrients during irrigation.

Adamsen said the board affirmed his firing, even though the Office of Personnel Management had not approved the department's performance-review system.

A three-judge panel of the Washington, D.C.-based federal appeals court vacated the board's decision on the basis that the evidence for or against approval was sparse.

"On the record before us, we cannot determine what changes the Department made in its performance appraisal plan, how significant those changes were, and what impact, if any, they had on the Department's determination that Dr. Adamsen's performance had been inadequate," Judge Friedman wrote.

The court remanded for further information, but affirmed dismissal of Adamsen's other claims: that the agency never gave him the opportunity to demonstrate that his work was acceptable, and that his job requirements were not feasible.

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