The system does work, at times. But you may have to seek help from outside the Agency. Case in point: the matter of an employee of the Voice of America who reported what he believed were prohibited personnel practices committed by his Division Director. While requesting that his Division Director not be informed that he had reported the allegations, the employee informed the Agency Director of Personnel, the VOA Director, and the BBG CEO of the suspected violations.

Lo and behold, shortly thereafter, and just days after the BBG unveiled its Management Accountability Charter, the employee received a letter of reprimand from his Division Director based on the allegations contained in the information the employee provided to Agency officials! The employee sought to meet with the Agency officials about the Letter of Reprimand he received. In one case one of the officials referred him back to another one of the officials. Another official told him he needed to discuss it with his Division Director! Nothing was done about the Letter of Reprimand.

The BBG Management Accountability Charter supposedly guarantees employees that managers and supervisors at all levels will ensure that BBG employees will “work in a zero tolerance environment for favoritism, retaliation, and discrimination based upon race, sex, religion, color, age, national origin, disability, Union activity, sexual orientation, and whistleblower activity.”

The employee subsequently sought whistleblower protection from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). After investigating the complaint, the OSC found that the employee’s disclosures were likely protected by the provisions of 5 USC §2302(b)(8).

As a result, the OSC contacted the BBG and an agreement was reached between the BBG and the OSC. The BBG agreed to withdraw the Letter of Reprimand and to “host OSC-led training efforts regarding protected whistleblowing, retaliation, and other prohibited personnel practices.”

AFGE Local 1812 is pleased that the BBG agreed to withdraw the Letter of Reprimand and to allow OSC-led training of Agency officials in issues of whistleblowing, retaliation, and other prohibited personnel practices. They are certainly in need of such training. However, that is not nearly enough.

The BBG guaranteed employees “zero tolerance” for retaliation for whistleblower activity. Why is the Division Director, who presented the Letter of Reprimand to the employee, not being disciplined? In addition, it’s unusual for a supervisor to write an official Letter of Reprimand by himself or herself. Did anyone in the Office of Personnel or anyone else in the Agency advise the supervisor on this matter or help him draft the letter? Shouldn’t there be some consequences?

The employees of the VOA cannot possibly take the BBG’s Management Accountability Charter seriously if those involved in this retaliation action are absolved without any consequences after blatantly ignoring the law.