Unethical hiring practices in Federal Government
June 6, 2013 7:00 PM   Subscribe

I have a question regarding unethical hiring practices. This question has a few permutations to it. The main one is it looks like a woman will be interviewing for a position, and one person on the three-person interview panel is a man with whom she is having an affair. The other folks who will be interviewed for the job are aware of this. What is their recourse? What is the smartest course of action?

My brother works for the Federal Government. The organization he works for has deteriorated over the past two years, after merging with a sister agency. The individuals in positions of leadership who were effective and fair/moral had integrity, have left. In his organization there is a branch chief and two section chiefs. One section chief just moved into the branch chief role - lets call her Katie. One brand new person has been hired to be a section chief - lets call him Brad. The other section chief position was just advertised this week. Katie, Branch Chief A has just left on maternity leave, and as soon as she left for maternity leave, it appears the environment has gone Lord of the Flies. The opportunities for travel to conferences and workshops that normally come up have and are presented to the entire team have been usurped by one individual on the team, lets that individual Missy. Missy has been given the oppty to go to a series of workshops because a Branch Chief (Lets call him Branch Chief B) from another division has insisted that she go. Missy is having an affair with Branch Chief B and they have for months been using every opportunity to take work trips together. The people processing their travel are aware of this and looking for fraudulent activity.

Normally each member of the team would have the opportunity to attend these workshops, but because Katie is on maternity leave, and the Acting Boss, Brad is brand new, this other Branch Chief, Branch Chief B, has been able to influence Brad who has no idea of what is really going on, is himself very insecure, volatile, and too proud to ask questions, and has been befriended by Missy.

Fast Forward. There's now an opening for a GS-15 position in the organization. "Missy", who began her position a year ago as a 14, who is having an affair with Branch Chief B is gunning for this position. That Branch Chief B, in addition to Brad, would serve on the interview panel.

It appears that while this job opening should have been advertised months ago, Branch Chief B arranged to have it advertised after "Missy" fuflilled her one year requirement as a GS-14 in order to qualify for the 15. He is positioning her to move into the GS-15 role, presumably so that she can continue to control her travel so that she can align her business trips with his.

This is upsetting to members on the team that have been at the organization much longer, are are far more qualified for the 15 position. What are those members' on the team's options for recourse? Have you ever seen this happen before? What would be the best course of action for my brother, who would like a fair chance at this job, knowing Branch Chief B will be on the interview panel, and will presumably fight for Missy to have the job? Should my brother just sit back and see what happens and then file a complaint if she is offered the job or should he take action before the interviews take place? I think, while its pretty disgusting to observe what is going on, there really is noone in the organzation that will really do anything about it - my brother feels that the director and the deputy director, who are the heads of the organization are equally corrupt and spineless as well as good friends with the Branch Chief B. And bringing this to their attention would only cause my brother harm. Any thoughts, suggestions or anecdata would be appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Anonymous email to the agency's Inspector General or equivalent.

If your brother is a member of the AFGE, this might be an issue to discuss with them, also anonymously.

But really, what your brother needs to do is be trawling USAJobs and/or civilian job boards constantly, because things are not likely to get better in his workplace, regardless of what happens with B and Missy.
posted by Etrigan at 7:16 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is there an HR rep your brother can go to? This is the kind of thing they are supposed to handle.

Your brother (and his co-workers) should start documenting everything, and save it off site in case there is any retaliation.
posted by rakaidan at 7:17 PM on June 6, 2013

IANAL, but this may count as sexual harassment, since the workplace environment clearly is hostile to people who are not having an affair with B.
posted by musofire at 7:25 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

This the government. there has to be some kind of grievance process, conflict of interest reporting process, etc. There is going to be an avenue by which those who know are supposed to handle this. I have searched a little, don't know what it is, but certainly somewhere in his job structure, this exists.

Activating that process may make him persona non grata around the office, though, so he should shine up his resume in the meantime.
posted by Miko at 7:43 PM on June 6, 2013

EEO office.

Prior to selection. The process is unfair whether or not Missy is selected.
posted by The Deej at 8:19 PM on June 6, 2013

Yeah, well the thing that's supposed to be done is for B to have himself replaced on the selection board. If it's common knowledge that Missy and B are a thing, then he's hanging himself if he doesn't. Discreetly reminding him of that fact "just trying to protect the boss, y'know" might be easier and less drama-filled than the formal grievance process.

I might also casually mention to Brad how surprised I am at Missy's rapid rise, and hope out loud that nobody would think that it was because of her relationship with B. Because, you have to admit, it looks bad to the casual observer, right? Just as a shot across the bow.

On the other hand, if I wanted to wipe them all out at once, I might wait until they did hire Missy, then file a complaint.

Also, I thought we were only doing mission-essential travel AND that there was a hiring freeze on. Your brother must be in a different federal government than me.
posted by ctmf at 10:15 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take it to HR, document everything.
posted by empath at 10:37 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry to say this, but I don't think there's really anything your brother can do, unless someone has actual proof of the affair, and proof that there is a nexus between that and actual favoritism at work. Since Chief B is not in "Missy's" chain of command, this could be difficult.

Right now it sounds like all he and the others have is a perception of unfair treatment. I work in a federal human resources office and my boss (my boss!) is rumored to be having an affair with one of my co-workers. So far there has been no blatant favoritism, but although this behavior, if true, is totally inappropriate, without proof, it is still only a perception. And like my employee relations colleague says, "Life is not fair." For me, it's easier to accept there may be favoritism that to agonize constantly over the possibilty.

He may want to speak with upper management due to the issue it is causing with morale, but in my experience, nothing will be done. And it he believes his upper management is equally corrupt, I doubt this will get any results. I mean, how many years have we federal employees been filling out the OPM work environment surveys? And what has changed in that time?

On the other hand, if "Missy" is selected for the job, he can always file an EEO complaint which will result, by law, in an investigation of the matter. My EEO colleague says employees don't even have to identify a personal basis (e.g. my age, my race, my gender) for the alleged discrimination. He could easily become a super thorn in the side of the agency, what with filing complaints, and complaints about retaliation on top of that. This might eventually result in a settlement that gets him a favorable result such as a promotion.

Another option is to just wait for the presumed affair to go sour, and watch it blow up in both of their faces.

Your brother has my deepest sympathies . . .
posted by auntie maim at 5:39 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just thought of something else:

posted by auntie maim at 9:41 AM on June 7, 2013

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