HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah, Dec. 23, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Hill Air Force Base’s director of the Equal Employment Opportunity office (EEO) has been removed from her post “for improperly and unlawfully handling complaints involving sexual harassment and discrimination,” a statement from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel says.
According to the statement, three whistleblowers disclosed to OSC that the EEO director had improperly handled their complaints, and an investigation was conducted by USAF’s Material Command Office of Inspector General.
“The investigation substantiated the whistleblowers’ allegations, finding that the EEO director had:
- Actively discouraged employees from filing EEO complaints, including telling one whistleblower that her (later substantiated) sexual harassment claims against her supervisor “wouldn’t carry weight” and “wouldn’t go anywhere” when the whistleblower tried to file a complaint.
- Illegally modified and rejected EEO complaints and allegations
- Given employees false and misleading information about the EEO process, including illegally denying a whistleblower the ability to remain anonymous at the informal stage of the EEO process and telling a filer that she was not entitled to file a claim when the filer was, in fact, entitled to do so.
- Failed to identify conflicts of interest by management during the EEO mediation process, including allowing a senior official accused of wrongdoing in a whistleblower’s EEO filing to serve as the sole settlement authority for the agency during that whistleblower’s EEO mediation.
In response to these findings, USAF has agreed to take significant corrective actions, including removing the EEO director from her position and reassigning her to another office with no involvement in EEO filings
In addition, USAF committed to improve annual EEO training, issue new EEO policies involving conflicts of interest, and further investigate the conduct of two attorneys in the Hill AFB Civil Law Division who failed to identify conflicts of interest during the EEO settlement process.
“I commend the whistleblowers for bravely coming forward to identify the violations of law, gross mismanagement, and abuses of authority at Hill Air Force Base,” said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner in a prepared statement.
“Sexual harassment and discrimination cannot be tolerated on American military bases, and whistleblowers who come forward deserve fair treatment and due process. While this case exposed numerous legal violations and other egregious conduct, I am encouraged that the agency is taking steps to restore the integrity of its EEO process.”