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U.S. Office of Special Counsel

1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 201

Washington, D.C. 20036-4505


(202) 653-7984               

     Today, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced the settlement of a prohibited personnel practice complaint filed by a housekeeping employee for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The employee alleged that VA officials terminated her in retaliation for disclosing to fellow employees her reasonable belief that their second-level supervisor was engaging in an abuse of his official authority: giving preferential treatment to a subordinate employee with whom the supervisor was believed to have had a personal relationship. 

     The complainant alleged that the subordinate employee in question directly told her that she and the supervisor were having an affair and that he was giving her preferential treatment. After the complainant disclosed this information to her co-workers, one of the co-workers told the supervisor in question. Shortly thereafter, the complainant alleged that the supervisor submitted untrue, pretextual reports of misconduct about her that ultimately led to her termination. 

     OSC concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the complainantís termination violated the Whistleblower Protection Act. That Act makes it unlawful for an agency to take a personnel action against an employee because she has disclosed what she reasonably believes is evidence of an abuse of authority. When OSC advised VA of its conclusion, VA agreed to cooperate in attempts to settle the complaint without the need for further proceedings. 

     Under the settlement, without admitting liability, VA agreed to re-appoint the complainant to a housekeeping position and provide her with any lost earnings. In exchange, the complainant agreed to withdraw her OSC complaint. 

     The Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that investigates and prosecutes complaints alleging the commission of prohibited personnel practices at federal agencies. In cases where an OSC investigation reveals reasonable grounds to believe a prohibited personnel practice has been committed, and an agency declines to voluntarily provide relief to a complainant, OSC will prosecute a petition for corrective action before the Merit Systems Protection Board. In many cases, such as this one, OSC obtains relief for complaining parties through settlement, before it makes a formal finding regarding the merits of the complaint.