Lessons Learned from my U.S. Federal Employer



In 2007, I filed a grievance against my supervisor for harassment and discrimination against women. I was the third (of three) women research scientists to file a complaint against him, but USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) administrative personnel did nothing to stop the abuse. After years of inaction and delay, the agency "solved" the problem of unlawful discrimination by transferring one woman to a different supervisor, and forcing the other two women to quit (by making their working conditions unbearable). Job performance was not the cause of their removal, since every woman research scientist in the unit had a scientific impact rating (h-factor) superior to their male supervisor's rating.

It is my belief that agency administrators allowed harassment, discrimination, and retaliation to continue against the women year after year because they knew (from past experiences) that the Agency would never be held accountable. Unfortunately, they were correct. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) system appears to be structured to thwart U.S. anti-discrimination laws.

This is a summary of my experience within the U.S. Federal EEO process. May the information help other women in the federal workforce, rather than just provide another “How To” manual for their male supervisors and peers who benefit when the careers of their female competition are attacked.

Yes, it’s all true,

(which is why the USDA’s Cease and Desist against this website failed).

Chapter 1 - Filing a Grievance within the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

[Filing an administrative grievance is the first step in registering a complaint, although it probably won’t stop the Agency’s unlawful activities. The Final Agency Decision (FAD) on one woman’s grievance stated that a “hostile environment for women” and “discriminatory treatment” by an ARS supervisor were “nongrievable matters” (even though both actions are in violation of U.S. laws). Another woman’s grievance was simply ignored until the FAD was issued (four years later) dismissing her complaint without investigation because the Agency had failed to meet the established deadline for a timely response.]

Chapter 2 - Filing an Informal EEO Complaint within the ARS

[Filing an Informal EEO complaint within the employing agency (ARS) was required before contacting the parent agency (USDA). This step served only to delay the process (by at least 30 days), since the ARS Administrator had already made it clear that a “hostile environment for women” and “discriminatory treatment” by a supervisor are considered “nongrievable matters” within the ARS.]

Chapter 3 - Filing a Formal EEO Complaint within the USDA

[Filing a Formal EEO complaint within the parent agency (USDA) is required before a federal employee can request an “outside” investigation by EEOC. The USDA was allowed 180 days (six months) to examine the evidence and issue a Report of Investigation (ROI), but they can delay the process as long as they like, since there appears to be no oversight until an employee files a complaint with EEOC.]

Chapter 4 - Filing a Complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

[Filing an EEOC complaint is the beginning of a process that can take many years. Meanwhile, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by agency personnel against the women who complained can continue unabated, since there is no remedy at law during the EEOC process.]

Chapter 5 - From the EEOC to the IRS, Justice is Not Guaranteed

[Complaints are often settled before an EEOC Hearing is ever scheduled, especially when an agency knows it has broken U.S. Civil Rights laws. These Settlement Awards are not necessarily fair, but they do end a multi-year conflict. All monetary settlements must be reported (by the agency) to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in accordance with U.S. laws, but the agency can ignore U.S. laws and not report the award to the IRS, since there is no oversight and no penalty for agency noncompliance.]

Chapter 6 - Epilogue

[It seems clear that the EEO complaint system did not function properly (i.e. according to U.S. laws) within the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Does the blame lie with agency policies or with the agency personnel who behaved unethically? This chapter examines how the ARS discriminated against the women research scientists in Alaska, (and how they got away with it).]

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