Lessons Learned from my U.S. Federal Employer


Chapter 5 - From the EEOC to the IRS, Justice is Elusive

Complaints are often "settled" before an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Hearing is ever scheduled, especially when an agency such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes that it has broken U.S. Civil Rights laws. These Settlement Awards are not necessarily fair, but they do end a multi-year conflict. According to U.S. laws, all monetary settlements must be reported by the agency to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The settlement must also be declared as income on the Complainant's tax return. Unfortunately, the agency can ignore U.S. laws and not report the award to the IRS, since there is no oversight and no meaningful penalty for agency noncompliance. In fact, (based on my personal experience, as well as discussions with other women who have received USDA Settlement Awards in the last decade), it appears that the USDA routinely "forgets" to tell the IRS about awards paid out as compensation for the agency's illegal harassing, discriminatory, and retaliatory practices against its women employees.

This chapter documents my quest to obtain tax paperwork, which the USDA was required by law (26 USC 6051) to submit in order to account for my 2010 Settlement Income. A sample USDA Settlement Agreement (found on the web in a redacted form) provides an example of wording used in a settlement agreement in order to require a federal agency to report the settlement income to the IRS.

01.) I asked ARS for the missing tax documents (beginning 27 February 2011).

According to U.S. law (26 USC 6051) the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) was required to send tax documentation of my settlement award to the IRS. Beginning February 27th (2011), I contacted the USDA ARS no fewer than seven times in search of the missing tax documents. Additionally, the IRS sent two separate requests on my behalf, but the USDA ARS would not release the required tax documentation. 

     - Timeline of requests


You Decide: The USDA attorneys will later refer to all of these letters as though they were a single request that was inadvertently overlooked by the ARS. To my amazement, the EEOC will later agree. Why do you think USDA and EEOC personnel behaved unethically (and/or illegally) in this matter?

02.) I asked the IRS to help me obtain the missing tax documents (beginning 18 March 2011)

It is the job of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to enforce all internal revenue laws in the United States, (except those relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives). The USDA ARS failed to send tax documentation of my settlement agreement, (in violation of U.S. law 26 USC 6051) and had stopped responding to any of my email queries. The USDA also ignored two requests sent directly from the IRS.

     - My letter to the IRS (20 June 2011)

     - Exhibits accompanying letter

03.) The IRS responded that they were still researching the issue (02 August 2011)

The IRS received my June 20th letter on June 27th and sent out a response on August 2nd, stating that they hadn't completed their research. The letter arrived one day after I had phoned the IRS's Tax Law department and been told that they could do nothing for me since the IRS does not enforce tax laws.

     - Letter from the IRS

04.) The IRS wouldn't help, so I tried a different tack (02 August 2011)

In an attempt to obtain the missing tax documents, I filed a Breach of Settlement Agreement against the USDA. I sent a letter to USDA OGC-Civil Rights Litigation Division and to the USDA Office of Adjudication (as required by the Settlement Agreement) asking that they provide tax documentation, in accordance with the Settlement Agreement that I negotiated with the Agency on 19 August 2010. By law (29 CFR § 1614.504), the USDA was required to respond within 35 days, (i.e. no later than September 15th 2011). USPS tracking confirmed that both Agency recipients received my letter on August 10th.

     - My letter to USDA

     - Exhibits accompanying letter

05.) USDA Compliance Division responds (12 September 2011)

The USDA Compliance Division (Geraldine Herring) responded to my letter, but did not provide the missing tax documents.

     - Timely Letter from USDA

06.) USDA Adjudication and Compliance responds (19 September 2011)

The USDA Adjudication and Compliance Office (Brooks Liswell) responded to my letter, but did not provide the missing tax documents. The letter itself was of poor quality and was untimely (i.e. postmarked AFTER the 35 days allowed by law). Proper headings (e.g. complaint numbers, etc…) were also missing. In the letter Mr. Liswell argued that the Agency did not "refuse" to provide tax documentation. Instead he implied that all of my requests (combined with two requests directly from the IRS) were actually a single request, which the agency had inadvertently overlooked. Since the USDA still did not send tax documentation, I decided to file with EEOC, claiming Breach of Settlement Agreement against the USDA.

     - Untimely (and unreadable) Letter from USDA

You Decide: The USDA attorneys referred to all of the letters as though they were a single request that was inadvertently overlooked by the ARS. Can you think of any ethical reasons for the USDA’s decision to ignore my requests (as well as requests made by the IRS) in order to withhold tax documentation of my settlement award?

07.) I phoned the IRS (20 September 2011)

During my August 2nd phone call to the IRS, I was told that the IRS could not help me obtain tax documentation from my previous employer. I assumed that I would eventually receive an IRS letter confirming their representative’s statement, but no letter arrived. On September 20th, I phoned the IRS to inquire if any progress had been made in their investigation. The IRS representative informed me that a letter had been sent to me that very day (9/20/11).

     - IRS information

08.) I contacted EEOC to claim Breach of Settlement (20 Sep 2011)

Since the USDA and the IRS were (apparently) doing nothing to secure tax documentation for me, I decided to contact the EEOC. Unsure of “where” to file a Breach of Settlement, I called EEOC’s Seattle field office, where my original EEOC complaint was processed. (No response.) Next I called EEOC’s San Francisco field office and spoke with a representative (who apparently didn’t know where to send the “Breach” letter either). In the end, the field office representative recommended that I send the letter to Judge Gaffin since he had previously handled the case.

     - Letter to EEOC

     - Exhibits Accompanying Letter

09.) Letter From IRS (29 September 2011)

The authors of this letter claimed that the IRS had researched the issue (i.e. they knew that the USDA had not submitted tax documentation for my settlement income, in violation of U.S. law), but could offer no assistance. I phoned the IRS Tax Law line, as suggested in the letter, but received no guidance for obtaining the missing tax paperwork.

     - Letter from IRS

You Decide: Do you think that there might be unwritten agreements among government agencies, thereby allowing certain federal violations to be “overlooked” rather than investigated by the IRS?

10.) Letter from EEOC (20 October 2011)

The EEOC Office of Federal Operations (Washington D.C.) acknowledged receipt of my letter, which I had sent to Judge Gaffin (in Seattle) on September 20th. Since I had already submitted evidence in the letter to Judge Gaffin (and it had presumably found its way to the Office of Federal Operations with my original letter), I did not send any additional information in response to this letter.

     - Letter from EEOC   

11.)  Letter from USDA (22 December 2011)

The USDA sent out a Statement of Opposition, which requested that the EEOC dismiss my appeal. In their letter the USDA argued that all of my requests for tax documentation (plus two separate requests from the IRS) were “unintentionally and mistakenly” omitted from IRS reports by USDA personnel. To further strain credulity, the USDA letter pretended that the agency was unaware of IRS reporting deadlines for annual tax documents. Attached to the letter was an odd-looking document, which the USDA claimed was a 1099 tax form for my settlement income.

     - Letter from USDA

     - Exhibits Accompanying Letter

12.)  Letter to EEOC (30 December 2011)

The December 22nd letter from USDA contained so many errors (including a 1099 Form instead of a W2), that I felt compelled to respond. I immediately prepared a rebuttal for EEOC, so that the truth could be introduced back into the case to discredit as many of the USDA’s false statements as possible.

     - Letter to EEOC

     - Exhibits Accompanying Letter

13.) Letter from USDA (11 January 2012)

The USDA responded with a Motion to Strike, alleging that I had no (legal) right to rebut their December 22nd arguments. Since I am not a lawyer (nor do I play one on TV), I was unfamiliar with the EEOC Appeals process. My intent when I submitted my December 30th letter was simply to reintroduce the truth back into the EEOC documents after the USDA’s attempt at deception.

     - Letter from USDA

     - Exhibits Accompanying Letter

14.) I phoned the IRS (23 January 2012)

I contacted the IRS to determine if a 1099 Form had been sent by the USDA to account for my EEOC-mediated settlement income, since it had not shown up on my recent request for a 2010 tax account transcript. The IRS agent confirmed that they (still) had no record of a 1099 Form, which raised the possibility that the USDA may have falsified the document to “win” the EEOC case.

     - IRS information

15.) Letter from EEOC (26 March 2012)

The EEOC dismissed my appeal, based solely on USDA's self-generated claim that it had sent tax documentation of my settlement income to the IRS, and therefore had complied with the Settlement Agreement.

     - Letter from EEOC

You Decide: The EEOC dismissed my Breach of Settlement case based entirely on an unofficial-looking piece of paper presented by a lawyer from an agency that has repeatedly acted in bad faith when handling discrimination cases against its women employees. Does that sound like an ethical system to you?

16.) I phoned the IRS (26 March 2012)

Still concerned about the authenticity of USDA’s 1099-MISC Form, I contacted the IRS, and was informed that they had never received a copy from the USDA. The IRS agent offered to send a letter to the USDA ARS asking about the 1099 Form.

     - IRS information

17.) Letter to EEOC (29 March 2012)

I alerted the EEOC to the IRS’s missing tax documentation, and listed some of USDA’s previous “bad faith” activities. I requested  that the EEOC reconsider my appeal on the grounds that their appellate decision involved “a misinterpretation of material fact”. My Breach of Settlement Agreement case hinged upon the fact that the USDA had never sent tax documents to the IRS, and (despite the odd-looking document introduced into evidence by the USDA) was still not in compliance, according to the IRS.

     - Letter to EEOC

     - Exhibits Accompanying Letter

18.) Letter from IRS (04 April 2012)

This letter (sent by the IRS in response to my March 26th phone call) requested that the ARS send me the missing W-2 or 1099 Form (from 2010).

     - Letter from IRS

19.) Letter from USDA (23 April 2012)

After receiving the IRS request for tax documents, USDA responded by sending me a W-2 Form that documented only my regular 2010 employment wages. They did not include the 1099 form (documenting my settlement income), which had been sent to me in December  by USDA attorney Brooks Liswell. The USDA's response suggests that they still have no official record of the Settlement Income, and they do not currently possess the 1099 paperwork that was submitted to me and the EEOC in December 2011 as "proof" of agency compliance.

     - Letter from USDA

You Decide: If the USDA National Finance Center had no tax documentation to account for my Settlement Income, then "who" generated the 1099 paperwork that was used by the agency to demonstrate proof of compliance in the current "breach of settlement agreement" dispute?

20.) Letter from USDA (24 April 2012)

This letter was prepared in response to my Request for Reconsideration of Appeal, which I sent to the EEOC on March 29th 2012. The USDA attempted to shift the focus away from whether or not they properly sent the appropriate tax documentation to the IRS. Instead, USDA implied that I should concentrate solely on the IRS’s receipt of the documents, rather than trying to verify whether the documents had ever been sent.

     - Letter from USDA

You Decide: Why didn’t the USDA just re-send the missing tax document to the IRS in a certified letter with a tracking number (and then re-pronounce themselves in compliance)? Doesn’t their reluctance only increase speculation that their 1099 may not have been a legitimate tax form?

21.) Letter from EEOC (25 April 2012)

In this letter, the EEOC tentatively accepted my Request for Reconsideration of Appeal.

     - Letter from EEOC

22.) Letter to EEOC (02 May 2012)

On May 2nd I called the EEOC's Office of Federal Operations to speak to the Officer of the Day regarding a procedural question. I had recently received two new pieces of evidence (previously unavailable) that supported my case, and I was seeking guidance for submitting this new evidence to the Commission. This letter to EEOC included the additional evidence, which demonstrated USDA’s ongoing noncompliance with the 2010 Settlement Agreement.

     - Letter to EEOC

     - Exhibits Accompanying Letter

23.) I phoned the IRS (15 January 2013)

Still concerned about the authenticity of USDA’s 1099-MISC Form, I contacted the IRS, and was informed that they had never received a copy from the USDA.

     - IRS information

24.) I phoned the EEOC (22 January 2013)

In order to confirm that my appeal with EEOC was still on the docket, I phoned the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations.

    - Phoning the EEOC

25.) The EEOC phoned me (22 January 2013)

The EEOC Officer of the Day returned my call to confirm that my case was still active.

   - EEOC returns my call

26.) Letter from EEOC (???????)

EEOC has not yet announced its final decision...