A percentage of your co-workers who refuse to join the union do so because they believe that managers would never be deliberately unfair to them, and even if they were, the “civil service system” would stop them before they did harm.  There are also those among your co-workers who believe in tooth fairies, candy-laden bunnies, and flying red-nosed reindeer. But for now, we want to give you something to pass on to the first group. EEOC just issued a decision in which it found that a couple of managers did this to an employee:

the ACO Manager and the Regional Technician had publicly humiliated Stella to such an extent that it brought her to tears in the presence of her colleagues, three of whom attested to having witnessed the bullying. On March 12, 2020, the ACO Manager issued Stella a disciplinary memorandum for leaving work after assuring her that she would not, and this was witnessed by both the IT Manager and CFM3. CFM3 characterized the ACO Manager as a chronic liar. The next day, the ACO Manager casually dismissed Complainant’s concerns in order to persuade her not to file an EEO complaint which she, Complainant, ultimately did. On July 19, 2020, the ACO Manager reprimanded Complainant for arriving late but let Administrative Manager I slide despite her frequent tardiness. On July 30, 2020, the ACO Manager at the direction of the Regional Technician issued Complainant a written reprimand for essentially carrying out instructions from the ACO Manager to cancel the training classes in question, an act that would make any reasonable person feel harassed. On August 10, 2020, Complainant was bullied by the ACO Manager and given a notice of termination, effective immediately. Two of the charges cited in support of the termination were the March written reprimand for leaving work, which the ACO Manager promised she would not issue, and the July written reprimand for cancelling training classes which, as bears repeating, Stella had done on the order of the ACO Manager. Contrary to the Area Manager’s affidavit testimony, there is no evidence of any act of insubordination by Stella.

Stella’s story is not common, but neither is it rare. A percentage of all managers are miserable managers and another chunk are just not nice people.  There are enough of both, however, to justify insuring oneself against running into one during one’s career. Think of it like car or house insurance. No matter how good a driver one is, there are lots of other drivers out there who are somewhere between average and murderous.

Stella was fortunate enough to get some representation from folks who knew how to use the law in her favor, collect evidence, and navigate the legal process. That is what unions do and one of the primary reasons an employee should consider it a bargain to pay dues to get this protection.

Stella got her job back, with back pay, interest and a little extra to cover the higher income tax rate that would result from all that cash at once. She was also given an opportunity to petition for up to $300,000 in compensatory damages. But perhaps the sweetest part of the corrective action EEOC ordered was that the agency consider disciplining the offending managers and let EEOC know whether it did or not.

For details about this case see Stella K., v. Gina M. Raimondo, Sec’y, of Commerce (Census), EEOC No. 2022002059 (2023)

Union reps should think about passing this post around to non-members or even just pieces of it to remind them once again of the value of having skilled representatives available when you need them –and who will not charge them an extra dime, much less the $75,000 to $100,000 a lawyer typically would in a case like this—for that representation.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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