The Office of Special Counsel announced that an employee at the Department of Interior has been returned to his position after being retaliated against by the agency for being a whistleblower.
The federal employee worked at the DOI’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). OSC said that he complained about insufficient environmental impact studies of Alaska drilling sites, saying that the agency employed an abnormal process for the environmental review.
OSC said that he then became the subject of an internal investigation which uncovered violations of department policies by the employee that were used as a basis for his removal.
The employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSC alleging that he was removed in retaliation for his whistleblower actions. The case went before the Merit Systems Protection Board which approved a settlement returning him to his position.
A redacted OSC report states that DOI improperly removed the employee from his position “in retaliation for his protected disclosures and/or protected activity, in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8) and (b)(9)(C).”
“I am very pleased that OSC was able to negotiate a favorable settlement to return this employee to his previous position,” said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner. “Retaliation can take many forms and is rarely straightforward. After closely reviewing the facts in this case, it became clear that the investigation was launched in retaliation for the employee’s prior whistleblowing activities. I also acknowledge the Department’s willingness to settle this case before the hearing, a result that conserves valuable taxpayer resources to reach a mutually agreeable outcome.”
As part of the agreement, the employee gets backpay with benefits, a retroactive promotion, placement in a modified chain-of-command, restored annual and sick leave, a time-off award, increases in past performance ratings, two-year priority consideration for any qualified vacancy at DOI, $180,000 in compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees in addition to being returned to his job.