A federal agency has agreed to pay a scientist $100,000 to settle allegations in a whistleblower lawsuit that the agency had retaliated against him. Under the terms of the agreement, he will retire from the agency, the agency will remove a letter of reprimand placed in his personal file and he will not reapply for a Department of Interior (DOI) position for five years.
The case began in 2004, when the scientist reported sightings of drowned polar bears in the Arctic. At a later point, the agency launched an investigation of the work of the scientist, alleging “scientific misconduct.”
After repeated interrogations of the scientist and a colleague concerning the dead polar bears, the investigation concluded there was no misconduct. NPR reported that the scientist “believes this was an effort to silence scientific efforts that might interfere with oil and gas development in the Arctic.”
The DOI, in what appeared to be an attempt to disguise its retaliation, placed a letter of reprimand in his file for leaking internal government emails on an unrelated issue. This prompted his whistleblower lawsuit, as he claimed the emails demonstrated the agency was violating the law in an effort complete drilling permits in the arctic.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) denied any wrongdoing, and refused to comment on the news. The BOEM, according to its website, is responsible for promoting “science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy resources.”
It appears that the agency disagreed with the scientist’s views on climate change and attempted to intimidate him with a phony investigation and when that didn’t work, they tried to distract attention by the leak accusation.
If you work for a federal agency and have been subjected “investigations” or other adverse job actions based on your disclosure of apparent wrongdoing, you should document every interaction with the agency and speak with an attorney to protect your job and career.
Source: NPR.com, “Polar Bear Researcher Gets $100,000 In Settlement With Feds,” Nell Greenfieldboyce, December 4, 2013