This story has been updated with a link to the report, which is now fully redacted.
Tales of harassment, discrimination, bullying, and incompetence color the 40-page report compiled by a federal employee union on some managers at the Veterans Affairs Department.
The American Federation of Government Employees Local 17 reportedly gathered information about the “disruptive and ineffective” managers at the request of VA Secretary Bob McDonald, submitting the litany of allegations and names to the department in July. Government Executive filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the VA for the report and received it last week.
Some allegations against the managers, all of whom work in VA’s Central Office, are specific examples of abuse or intolerance, while others are more general criticisms of managers’ leadership abilities and communication skills.
One senior executive allegedly directed subordinates to sign documents indicating that mid-year performance reviews had taken place even though they had not; another manager played favorites with employees who share his religious beliefs, according to the report. Another supervisor, who is described as a “disgrace” with a “disordered personality,” harasses female employees, the report claimed, while others have allegedly made disparaging remarks about a subordinate’s sexual orientation, forced employees to ask for permission to use the bathroom, yelled and cursed at subordinates, and ignored requests for reasonable accommodations and advance sick leave – some from disabled veterans.
One manager’s abuses are “legendary,” the report said. “He is grandiose, distrustful, jealous, vengeful, manipulative, resentful, and vicious. He spreads rumors, reveals employee confidences, harasses subordinates, is intolerant, orchestrates conflict, engages in questionable employment practices, and ruins careers.” A description of another manager – “a very large man” – said he “uses his heft to intimidate his staff” and has a monitor at his desk “to surveil his employees.”
Other complaints discuss certain managers’ over-reliance on contractors, unwillingness to deal with problem employees, lack of technical expertise, and unprofessional behavior. “[Redacted name]’s poor judgment creates an uncomfortable environment for her subordinates,” the report said, claiming she “openly discusses her romantic partners and their physical attributes in an explicit and inappropriate manner.” She also talks about sex at the lunch table and “at times appears to be nursing a hangover,” according to the report.
Local 17 included employees’ views in the report, but there are no rebuttals from the managers named. AFGE would not comment on the report. VA did not return a request for comment. It’s not clear what, if anything, VA has done with the information and the allegations contained in the report.
Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, said if the abuses are true, “they are to be condemned and should immediately be dealt with through the proper channels.” But Bonosaro said that the “uncorroborated” report uses “salacious” language and often “offers little detail on general accusations beyond hearsay.” SEA and the Federal Managers Association in August sent a letter to several congressional committees asking them to look into what they called “a hit list” and determine whether the union put together the report on official time.
“As you know, official time provides for federal labor organizations to conduct representational activities,” the letter said. “However, to our knowledge, official time does not cover a union investigating agency managers and executives for the purposes of creating a hit list of those it seeks to have removed from the agency.”
(Image via Kudla / Shutterstock.com)