Female Firefighter fights against Federal Workplace Discrimination
Alicia Dabney’s faced workplace discrimination inside a federal agency which sets the standard for fair treatment. Dabney was pleaded guilty for committing a welfare fraud during her early age of motherhood, when she was living on Indian reservation and caring for her husband who was seriously injured during a suicide attempt.
Later on in 2010, when Dabney turned 27 years old, she landed up at her dream job as a firefighter with the Forest Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although she was trained for life or death situations but at the same time she was untrained for the hostility which she faced back at the station in California’s Region 5–covering 20 million acres in the Pacific Southwest. Dabney told that the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture had sordid histories of civil rights violations and discrimination dating back decades. She further told that in total, there were females including her and one by one each of them quit the job due to the constant sexual harassment and torture faced by them. Very soon she also faced the same humiliation and torture. Due to the constant humiliation and torture, Dabney finally lodged multiple Equal Employment Opportunity claims and complained to the Inspector General and Office of Special Counsel, wherein she alleged that she was forced to urinate on the road in view of her male colleagues, she was denied opportunities, and that a supervisor once sat and bounced on her neck when she bent over. The offenders were sometimes disciplined but were not fired and the bullying got worse day by day.
Similarly, Michael McCray (attorney) also experienced the same at USDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, beforehand. Mr. McCray stated that the frat boy culture was encouraged by the management infrastructure of USDA since decades. Mr. McCray further told that during 1990s, a manager who exposed a fraud worth millions of tax dollars in a program for poor communities was himself targeted for being a minority and lost his job. Mr. McCray also claimed that since 1995, he began with the filing of a series of discrimination and retaliation claims but his complaints were never processed to completion although he possessed all the testimony, corroboration, (and) documentation.
In 2009, Tom Vilsack the Agriculture Secretary, during a hearing acknowledged that there were around 3,000 languishing civil rights claims at USDA. Even after Tom Vilsack’s promise to end the culture of discrimination in the Department, the problem persisted and Dabney still faced the abuse.
Once again in August 2011, Dabney faced sexual harassment during a training conference wherein, she was asked by her supervisor to borrow some work supplies at the hotel. When she reported the incident to her supervisor and multiple investigative bodies, she suffered more reprisal.
According to recent reports of federal watchdog agency, the Office of Special Counsel, from 2010 to 2013, about 81% of complaints filed against USDA senior managers were not acted upon in a timely manner. Although, the interview’s requests were denied by the Obama’s administration, but according to a spokesman, the agency inherited serious issues and “over the past six years, we have corrected past errors, learned from mistakes, and charted a stronger path for the future where all Americans are treated with dignity and respect.”
Mr. McCray told that “There's no accountability, even in cases where you know, discrimination has been proven. If you're a manager, you don't even have to pay for your defense, because it's going to be the agency's attorneys. They're gonna be your attorneys.”
Though, the Department of Agriculture admitted no fault in Dabney’s case, they paid her a confidential settlement that included the alleged hotel assault, with the condition that she will never work there again.
The money stolen from the welfare fraud by Dabney was repaid and the conviction was also wiped from her records by the Judge, but her desire for justice is still persisting.