Why the EPA could be federal workers’ ground zero

The Government Accountability Project might be busier now than ever before. The organization backs whistleblowers. In recent days, it has dealt with an influx of concerns and questions brought to them by federal workers facing the Trump administration. Take acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ firing as a prime example of the bad that can happen for refusing to follow executive orders.

Yates had ordered the DOJ not to defend Trump’s immigration ban. Trump fired Yates that same night. As Politico reports – and as you’d expect – the largest group of federal workers who’ve called the Government Accountability Project are those who “want to know what to do if they’re asked to violate the law.”

On that note, we turn our attention to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump’s nominee is a ‘leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda’

A Bloomberg article raises the possibility that lawmakers could decide to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, although the authors acknowledge that doing so – even in the Trump era – is easier said than done, owing to decades of regulations that stand in the way. In all likelihood, Trump and lawmakers will opt for a more straightforward route toward their goal of less environmental regulation.

On this route, Trump has an ally in Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt is Trump’s nominee to head up the agency. Though not yet confirmed, Pruitt would reportedly assist in “undoing” Obama’s environmental regulations. He’d also presumably pave the way for more coal plants. Pruitt’s background as Attorney General of Oklahoma and “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” as per an archived version of his official website, would make him the man for the job.

To make a long story short

It’s not hard to imagine EPA employees in a bind, caught between carrying out the agency’s mission of environmental protection and following the new boss’s orders (and suffering the workplace retaliation that could come from refusing to do so). The EPA, in other words, could become ground zero for federal workers in other agencies nationwide who may soon face new bosses barking unreasonable – perhaps unlawful – demands.

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Retaliation among most common EEO claims of federal employees

Federal employees facing discrimination, harassment or retaliation in the workplace have the right to bring an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint. These complaints can be powerful tools to hold employers accountable and to ensure that federal workplaces are as free as possible of illegal discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

Each year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) compiles data on EEO complaints. The most recent report, titled Annual Report on the Federal Work Force sheds light on the most common types of complaints federal employees make.

Retaliation is the biggest issue in EEO complaints

In fiscal year 2014, the most recent year this data was compiled, federal employees filed 15,013 EEO complaints, with many complaints involving multiple allegations. In 2014, federal employees filed 7,018 retaliation complaints. Under federal law, employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee who engages in a protected activity.

Harassment was a common allegation as well. In 2014, federal employees made 6,102 harassment complaints. These complaints do not relate to sexual harassment, but rather other allegations of illegal workplace harassment. Discrimination was frequently alleged as well, with age discrimination being the most common type of claim. In 2014, 4,697 federal employees filed age discrimination complaints. The second most common type of complaint was discrimination on the basis of race, with 3,838 complaints. Disability discrimination was a close third, with 3,817 complaints.

Any federal employee facing retaliation, discrimination or harassment at work should take careful steps to protect themselves. A skilled lawyer will be critical in presenting a powerful case based in the facts and law. Contact Alan Lescht and Associates today if you are a federal employee who has been discriminated or retaliated against.