BBG lawyers killing time, with taxpayers footing the bill for illegal RIFs

“For the Agency to keep litigating endlessly sends a terrible message to employees: that the BBG considers itself above the law and will deny U.S. citizens their rights, using taxpayers’ own money.” — AFGE Local 1812

AFGE Local 1812The AFGE Local 1812 Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employee union website reports on the efforts of BBG General Counsel office to delay rectifying illegal personnel practices.

Tip of the Iceberg

You can link to the original AFGE Local 1812 report by clicking on the title.

BBG Watch is also reposting the report.

Tip of the Iceberg

At a recent Broadcasting Board of Governors meeting in Prague, BBG Governor Victor Ashe raised the issue of the ongoing grievance affecting over 20 employees of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) in Florida.

At issue is the Agency’s decision to force AFGE Local 1812 to file an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge after the Agency refused to comply with a ruling dated November 19, 2011, by Federal Arbitrator Suzanne Butler. She found in favor of AFGE Local 1812 in its grievance over the BBG’s 2009 illegal reduction-in-force at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

The Arbitrator’s award orders, among other things, reinstatement of the affected employees to their previous positions without loss of seniority or benefits and full back pay including interest.

Governor Ashe expressed concern about the financial consequences to the Board and to the American taxpayer if the Agency fails in its appeal process of the Arbitrator’s decision.

Governor Ashe is right to be concerned because in another case in which U.S. citizens were illegally denied jobs and promotions under the Smith-Mundt Act, the Agency did fail in its appeal of a final ruling by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). It also had to withdraw its subsequent appeal of the FLRA ruling from the District Court of Appeals. It now has forced AFGE Local 1812 to file another ULP against the Agency for non-compliance, which the Union is all but certain of winning. Agency lawyers are just killing time, with taxpayers footing the bill. In addition, these actions put Agency fiscal officers at personal risk. Under 31 USC 3527 and 3528, agency fiscal officers are made responsible personally for illegal payments of federal funds. There is no authority to pay those non-citizens who were illegally hired.

Both the OCB case and the citizenship case could end up costing not one, not two, but several million dollars, the financial impact being compounded by the Agency’s stubborn refusal to obey the law and to right the wrongs done to the employees whose careers were shattered, and whose family lives were gravely impacted by the Agency’s illegal behavior.

Two years ago, the BBG already had to settle a lawsuit brought by former VOA Arab Service employees who felt they had been discriminated against by Radio Sawa. (Mohamed Abdelkarim, et al. v. James K. Glassman). Sawa was accused of discrimination in the hiring, promotion, and treatment of these experienced Arabic radio broadcasters — all U.S. citizens — who were overlooked in favor of inexperienced young workers, many of whom were Lebanese.

Under the terms of the settlement, the BBG paid $650,000 to the plaintiffs, who were also to receive promotions they would have gotten if they had not been discriminated against. That considerable sum did not even include the cost to the taxpayers of the Agency’s having to litigate the case, as a consequence of its illegal actions.

Let’s not forget that it was a similar contempt for the law that, in 2002, resulted in a half billion dollar settlement in another discrimination case brought against the Agency by female employees, Hartman v. Albright.

For the Agency to keep litigating endlessly sends a terrible message to employees: that the BBG considers itself above the law and will deny U.S. citizens their rights, using taxpayers’ own money. For several years now, AFGE Local 1812 has expressed concern to the BBG that the Agency continues to incur back pay and damages liability for past and current illegal actions, at a time of budgetary constraints.

Originally Posted: Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012

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