Original post, July 5, 2017
In the Spring of 2017, as the Agency began to promote and encourage employee participation in the upcoming Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), the Broadcasting Board of Governors distributed a three-color printed document titled “Management Accountability Charter.” One of the points in the Charter was assurance that managers and supervisors of the Agency would ensure that employees work in a zero-tolerance environment for favoritism, retaliation and discrimination.
Less than two weeks after the Union received a copy of this Charter, we were informed by a bargaining unit employee that he had been retaliated against for being a whistleblower.
The employee had sent an email to CEO Lansing and VOA Director Bennett with copies to the Director of Human Resources and the Director of Management Services. The letter was notification that the employee believed his supervisor was committing prohibited personnel practices. Specifically, that the supervisor had given an unauthorized advantage to improve the prospects of a particular individual for a vacancy. He asked that his name not be revealed to his supervisor because he feared retaliation.
He heard nothing until on May 16th when he was presented with a Letter of Reprimand from his supervisor for specifically writing “false, malicious or unfounded statements against me”. The basis for the charge was the email he had sent to CEO Lansing and Director Bennett reporting his supervisor’s suspected prohibited personnel practices.
The annual OPM Employment Viewpoint Survey contains the statement: “I can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal.” Positive responses by BBG employees to this statement are consistently well below the government average. Apparently nothing ever changes in the Agency which ranks at or near the very bottom among mid-sized federal agencies in the annual survey.
According to the Whistleblower Protection Act, a whistleblower may file a complaint if s/he reasonably believes that there is a violation of a law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement, waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a danger to public health or safety. A prohibited personnel practice is a violation of federal law and this is what the employee believed he was reporting. Presumably, the employee is not tasked with proving the allegations. What should have happened is that the Agency should have investigated the allegations. If they proved true, then the situation should have been properly dealt with. If no prohibited personnel practice had taken place, the employee should have been informed of this fact and that should have ended the matter.
In discussions with management officials on this matter, it was their opinion that because there had been no vacancy announcement opened at the time of the employee’s email, the supervisor could not possibly have committed a prohibited personnel practice and it did not matter that the employee “suspected” that he had.
Therefore, apparently, the employee, or for that matter, any employee in this Agency, is fair game.
The Agency refused to remove the Letter of Reprimand. The Union has filed a grievance.