COLE v. YOUNG
The Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") fired Kendrick Cole when it determined that his employment was not "clearly consistent with the interests of national security." Mr. Cole was a food and drug inspector and a "preference-eligible veteran," but was charged with having "a close association with individuals reliably reported to be Communists." Mr. Cole appealed his discharge to the Civil Service Commission, which denied his appeal, finding that the Veterans' Preference Act did not afford Mr. Cole a right of appeal under the circumstances. Mr. Cole brought an action seeking declaratory judgment in the District of Columbia federal district court alleging that his discharge was invalid and that the Civil Service Commission improperly denied his appeal. The district court dismissed the case and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed.
When may an employee be discharged under the Veterans' Preference Act for implicating national security?
Legal provision: 64 Stat. 476
The Supreme Court reversed the D.C. Circuit, holding that the discharge of an employee without determination that his position was one in which he could adversely affect national security was unauthorized by the Veterans' Preference Act. With Justice John Marshall Harlan II writing for the majority, the Court reasoned that the Act's use of "national security" only relates to the nation's safety, and not the general welfare. Moreover, there was no determination that Mr. Cole's position within the FDA affected national security as the term is used in the Act. Therefore, the Court concluded, Mr. Cole's discharge was invalid.