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In the 1981 case of Douglas v. Veterans Administration, the Merit Systems
Protection Board (MSPB) held that it is management’s burden to show the
reasonableness of the remedy by showing that appropriate consideration was
given to each of the applicable factors set forth in the decision. When
determining what adverse action to take or what penalty to impose on an
employee, these Douglas factors must be taken into consideration.
Not all of these factors will be pertinent in every case. It is the
agency’s responsibility to determine which factors apply. Some may weigh in
the employee’s favor while other factors may constitute aggravating
circumstances that support a harsher penalty. The agency should indicate in
its decision letter which Douglas factors were considered when making its
These 12 factors apply to appealable adverse actions and are
recommended for grievable adverse actions:
Adverse actions may be appealed and reviewed by the Merit Systems
Protection Board (MSPB). The Board reviews to determine whether the
relevant aggravating and mitigating factors were considered. Agencies
must prove charges by a preponderance of the evidence and show a
connection between the charges and the efficiency of the service. If it
is determined that an agency failed to consider such factors or the
agency's judgment was unreasonable, the Board will specify how the
agency's decision should be corrected to bring the penalty within the
parameters of reasonableness.