Hostile Work Environments and The Whistleblower Protection Act: The Merit Systems Protection Board Rules

A hostile work environment is defined as “a work environment which promotes or permits discriminatory behavior towards an employee or class of employees based on the employee’s age, race, gender, natural origin, disability or religion.” Additionally, discriminatory actions that are taken in retaliation to rights protected by state and federal laws also qualify as creating a “hostile work environment.” The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a federal law protecting government employees who report agency misconduct. If either of these offenses sound like what you’re currently experiencing, a New York City, New Jersey or Philadelphia employment lawyer can help you parse through your situation and decide whether what you’re experiencing qualifies.

Given how related the two are, it would seem that they would go hand in hand. One recent lawsuit has just ruled exactly that. Last month, the Merit Systems Protection Board ruled that the creation of a hostile work environment violates the Whistleblower Protection Act. This comes in response to a 2006 case brought in by Tommie Savage, a respected contracting officer at the Army Corps of Engineers Huntsville, Alabama Support Center.

In 2006 Savage saw decades of performance awards, excellent work reviews and numerous promotions be dismantled by her reporting of the illegal contracting activity that she discovered. The activities she discovered, and then reported, were not inconsequential. These activities resulted in millions of dollars in fraud.

Following the law, she reported this behavior and claims she was immediately the victim of retaliatory discrimination. The alleged discrimination took the form of removal from her position, poor performance reviews, loss of awards and insensitive racial comments. Additionally, Savage claims that her supervisors yelled at her repeatedly. The work environment became so hostile that Savage claims she was unable to continue working effectively and was eventually fired for repeated absences.

She took her case to court and initially the judge found that Savage was “subject to retaliation” but failed to prove she was “constructively discharged” as a result. Last month, however, the case was reviewed by the MSPB. The MSPB ruled that hostile work environment is clause enough to qualify as a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act and Savage was compensated accordingly — thereby, hopefully, setting a legal precedent.

If you believe you have been the victim of a hostile work environment and need legal counsel, contact our team of New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia hostile work environment lawyers to review your case and get you the justice you deserve.

By Bryan Arcé | Published October 19, 2015

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