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Special Counsel Office Touts Settlements in Pregnancy Discrimination, Veterans Preference Cases

The small investigative agency has been stressing alternative dispute resolution; settlements were reached under acting leadership.

Acting leaders at the Office of Special Counsel have pressed on with settlements in a variety of cases involving violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

The independent investigative agency, which has been stressing its efforts at accelerated, alternative dispute resolution, on Thursday highlighted five recent settlements between parties that provided relief. Agency officials accomplished this while awaiting a Senate confirmation vote on President Trump’s nominee for special counsel, Henry Kerner.

The five settlements were:

  • A female employee from an unnamed agency complained of discrimination after she told her supervisor she was pregnant. The subsequent settlement agreement included her voluntary return to a non-supervisory position and a performance award, OSC reported.
  • Another employee complained that an agency official pressured the employee to withdraw from competition for a position at a higher grade level in a different division. “The agency official valued the employee and did not want to lose the employee to the other division,” the OSC said. “In exchange for the withdrawal, the agency official promised that, based on the work the employee was doing, the official would promote the employee to the same grade as the position in the other division.” But that promotion never came. After OSC’s negotiations, the agency awarded the complainant a promotion and back pay.
  • In a veterans preference case, an employee alleged that an agency official asked an applicant, who was a veteran, to withdraw from competition. The applicant then withdrew. The resolution in the unfair hiring practices case included OSC-provided on-site training on prohibited personnel practices for management. 
  • In a complaint alleging whistleblower retaliation, an employee claimed that the agency lowered marks on a performance evaluation and did not provide a performance-based salary increase in retaliation for disclosures about harassment. The parties arrived at a settlement agreement with OSC’s help, and the employee received a higher performance rating and a retroactive salary hike.
  •  In two related cases, employees alleged retaliation after they reported concerns about security. They claimed that the agency subjected them to management directed inquiries, reassigned one, and included negative information in their performance evaluations. The subsequent agreement under OSC’s auspices allowed the parties to agree on destroying all copies of the management directed inquiries and stripping their performance evaluations of all references to the inquiries.

OSC was led for the past six years by Carolyn Lerner, who left in June. Her duties were fulfilled this summer by acting special counsel and former policy director Adam Miles, who left this month for a post with the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

The current acting Special Counsel is Tristan Leavitt, who joined the agency in June as principal deputy special counsel. Leavitt is a veteran congressional staffer with both the Senate Judiciary and the House Oversight and Government Reform panels. Trump nominee Kerner is also a veteran Capitol Hill investigative staffer.