Legal Briefs: Handcuff harassment,

Every Friday on, Legal Briefs reviews cases that involve, or provide valuable lessons to, federal managers. We report on the decisions of a wide range of review panels, including the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Federal Labor Relations Authority and federal courts.

Burnis Tate, an African American Veterans Affairs vehicle operator, was driving a patient to VA's Overton Brooks Medical Center in Shreveport, La. Upon arrival, he and a white co-worker became involved in an altercation with officials of the medical center and Tate was assaulted by the chief of the center's Ambulatory Care and Processing Section. Security officers threatened to put him in handcuffs.

Tate's co-worker was ignored, even though he was the one who had annoyed the assaulter. According to witnesses, Tate did not speak loudly or react defiantly. But that's why VA said it sent out the guards to begin with.

Tate filed a complaint of racial discrimination for the way he was treated, but the agency did not uphold it. Instead VA apologized, but offered no explanation for the chief's behavior.

Tate took his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found the VA guilty of discrimination and poor manners. He was awarded $3,000 in compensatory damages.

Lesson: Save the handcuffs for the person doing the harassing.

Burnis Tate v. Veterans Affairs (01986429), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, April 14, 2000.

Home Away from Home

When David Morrell worked at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., he rented a room in the area and commuted to work daily while his family lived in Paonia, Colo.-more than 200 miles away. He returned to Paonia on holidays and weekends.

Morrell sold the house in Paonia in December 1998 and moved to Rufus, Ore., submitting a claim to the Army for real estate expenses incurred during the sale. The claim was denied.

The version of the Federal Travel Regulation in effect at the time of the incident said the government would reimburse an employee for costs incurred during the sale of a residence at his or her former official station. The FTR defined "official station" as the place from which the employee regularly left from to commute to work.

If Morrell had commuted to a work station in a remote area without adequate family housing, he could have been reimbursed for expenses associated with the sale of the Paonia home. Colorado Springs, however, is not considered to be a remote area.

The Board of Contract Appeals upheld the Army's decision to deny Morrell reimbursement.

Lesson: It's not where you call home, but where you commute from, that counts.

In the Matter of David Morrell (GSBCA 15229-RELO) GSBCA, April 26, 2000

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.