Business Law Insights

MSPB Moment: Whistleblower Appeals & Hostile Work Environment

Posted on: January 10th, 2017

Tommie G. Savage, a Contract Specialist with the U. S. Army Engineer and Support Center in Huntsville, Alabama, reported what she believed to be illegal and improper contracting activities beginning in late 2006.  Her concerns were validated by a subsequent audit in 2007.  In 2008, she made additional disclosures about alleged violations of the Federal Acquisition regulations.  In 2009, she filed an EEO complaint for hostile work environment. She was terminated for AWOL, excessive absences, and unavailability to report for duty in 2009, and filed an EEO complaint.  In 2011, the Agency issued a final agency decision and she filed a timely appeal.  She requested and received a dismissal without prejudice to file a whistleblowing retaliation complaint pursuant to the Whistleblowing Protection Act (WPA) with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and included a claim of hostile work environment.

The Merit Systems Protection Board held that “the creation of a hostile work environment is itself a personnel action for purposes of the WPA.”  Savage v. Dept. of the Army, 122 MSPR 612 , ¶ 23 (2015).

MSPB attorneys of Kitchens, New, Cleghorn LLC can help your case before the Merit Systems Protection Board. Contact us today.

Time to put politics aside and reform immigration

Posted on: September 6th, 2013

It is rare for Georgia businesses — large and small, urban and rural — to agree on much of anything. But they do agree that there is an urgent need for Congress to put politics aside and move forward with reforming America’s immigration laws.

Widespread frustration with the current immigration system and the need for reform was on display last week at the Atlanta Rotary Club, where Atlanta’s business community and Georgia’s agriculture community gathered to listen to former governors Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Rendell, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, have joined forces as two of the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Task Force on Immigration.

“Nothing is worse for America than the status quo,” Gov. Barbour told the Rotary Club. “We’ve got a system that’s broken. We need to do something about it for our economy, for our future.” Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, who was in the audience, recently expressed similar frustrations on behalf of Georgia’s$71 billion agriculture industry — if Congress “fails to act,” Duvall wrote, “the American people will keep the same flawed immigration policy we have right now. Nobody will be happy with that.”

Amazingly enough, on the same day Rendell and Barbour appeared before the Rotary Club, the incoming chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Delta CEO Richard Anderson, met with the editorial board of Atlanta Business Chronicle to express the view that the current immigration system was hurting Georgia businesses, according to reports of the exchange.

And earlier this year, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent told an interviewer, “I see a general consensus that there is a need for a 21st century immigration policy in the United States. I truly hope that this opportunity will be realized.”

So what is standing in the way of progress when the interest of Fortune 100 companies, like Coca-Cola and Delta, are the same as the interest of a farmer in Hawkinsville or chicken processor in Ellijay?

Not surprisingly, politics.

Gov. Rendell explained that there are more than enough votes in Congress right now to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill — a bill that would provide Georgia businesses with the reliable and capable workforce they need. But unfortunately, House Republicans, including members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, fear that any support for a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally today would invite charges of supporting “amnesty” and a potential primary challenge in 2014.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the president has said that he won’t sign a bill that doesn’t include a path to citizenship for those 11 million.

For the sake of Georgia’s economy, Congress — led by the state’s delegation — needs to reach a deal to make it easier to hire much-needed scientists and engineers, to keep talented students who graduate from Georgia’s colleges and universities in the state where they can launch startups and create jobs, and to make it possible for the 11 million to stay here legally, regardless of whether there is a path to citizenship.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Georgia is home to approximately 440,000 of those 11 million, many of whom are part of and contribute to Georgia’s “Essential Economy,” which a recent report byGeorgia Tech’s Innovation Services Group defined as the goods and services that are essential to our way of life, that have to be produced right here in Georgia and that, as of 2010, contributed $49 billion to the state’s economy. The Essential Economy workforce includes hotel, restaurant and construction workers, landscapers and nursing home attendants, and those who harvest crops, pick produce and drive the state’s poultry industry.

Georgia has a long history of finding common ground on divisive issues, especially when it is in the best interest of the state’s economy. We are at such a crossroads with immigration reform and there is a great opportunity for Georgia’s congressional delegation to harness the emerging consensus from across the state’s business community to get something done in Washington.

Stein, who served as legislative director and general counsel for Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., leads the government affairs practice at Kitchens New Cleghorn LLC and is a lecturer at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech.


Can Business Expect More Progress on Immigration Reform

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013
Will Immigration Reform Move in the House? Not Surprisingly, the Answer has Everything to Do with Politics

Businesses of all sizes – and many businesses in Georgia – are generally supportive of comprehensive immigration reform moving through Congress today because it will make it easier to hire much needed workers.  Yet despite the support of the business community and bolstered border security provisions – both of which helped attract 14 Republican votes in the Senate – prospects for the bill’s passage in the Republican-controlled House this fall remain dim.

Why is that the case?

To get to that answer, we should start with why Congress took up immigration reform in the first place, which according to a recent Gallup poll was 11th in a ranking of issues voters thought were important.

Nevertheless, Democrats put immigration reform at the top of the agenda in 2013.  Why?  Well to a large degree because of the Hispanic vote, which went overwhelmingly for the President and his party in 2012.  According to Pew, Latinos voted for Democrats by a margin of 71% to 27% this last election cycle, a percentage similar to the support President Clinton received in 1992.  But Latinos were only 2% of the electorate in 1992.  By 2012, that percentage grew to 10% and is expected to double by 2030.

Some Republicans looked at those percentages and recognized that they might never win another national election if they continue to lose the Hispanic vote by such large margins.  So some of the Senate’s most conservative members joined forces with Democrats to support the Senate’s immigration reform bill.

But in the House, many Republicans not only don’t need the Hispanic vote to win re-election, supporting a path to citizenship for those here illegally today – or anything that could be characterized as “amnesty” – would be a huge political liability and could invite a primary challenge.

So what has to change for the House to move on immigration reform this fall? Either Republicans looking out for the future of the party’s national prospects are able to convince enough House Republicans to support a bill, which might not be at odds with their constituents back home.  Or the Speaker of the House John Boehner will have to pass a bill with a majority of Democratic votes in the interest of the national party.  The former probably would have happened by now if it was going to happen and the latter might very well cost Boehner his speakership.

So if political calculations put immigration reform on the agenda in the first place, political calculations will also likely determine the bill’s fate.  And right now, the politics of immigration reform for many House Republicans looks a lot different than the politics of immigration reform for the broader Republican Party and certainly the politics of the Democratic Party.