HELEN -- A Raleigh County woman has filed a federal complaint against the Department of Veterans Affairs and its secretary, Dr. James Peake, after receiving reprisal for prior Equal Employment Opportunity activity.
Brenda Milam of Helen, a worker at the Beckley Veterans Affairs Medical Center, obtained her right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on April 30, 2008, but unfortunately, it states that "The agency found that complainant failed to establish a prima facie case of reprisal discrimination."
However, Milam has decided to pursue the case outside the administration of the EEOC and, in a hand-written letter, asked Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort to allow her to file a civil suit after the EEOC dismissed her. Her case is based on a failure to promote, retaliation, harassment, her managers' conduct, and that the terms and conditions of her employment were different from those of her coworkers.
Milam alleges that, after she participated in a EEO disability discrimination case, her standard raise from a GS-5 to a GS-6 was due but withheld by her supervisor, she was forced to "beg and bum" supplies from co-workers for six months, an EEO/Patient Relations officer began sending her "Tip of the Week" e-mails, and her managers began investigating her for complaints she was not aware of.
Filed on July 30, her hand-written complaint states Director G.P. Husson asked her not to participate in the disability case, and when she chose to continue, she was harassed. Her raise was a month late, and while she alleges that she was the only person it happened to and that it was "held…up on purpose," the letter from the EEOC says, "the department lost paperwork for all personnel actions in the department and all actions were delayed by one month."
Milam also alleges that she was not given adequate supplies to do her job and felt humiliated when her supervisors compelled her to ask co-workers for supplies. Her complaint seems to suggest that her co-workers had so much excess supplies that she and they were able to complete their work, but again, the letter from the EEOC explains, "because of budgetary shortages, the facility did not receive its full order of supplies."
Milam claims that the "Tip of the Week" was never seen before her disability case, caused "a chilling effect" on the case, and interfered with the case. But the EEOC says it published "Tips of the Week" to educate the workers on EEO matters.
The complaint Milam was investigated for apparently involved leave taken without notice, but she claims she was never given a chance to address the complaint.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Milam writes in her request for relief: "Allow me to file this suite [sic] without fees & cost, and to appoint me an attorney to represent me as I have been unable to find on [sic] in this part of the state to take a Federal Case. And to award compensation for the stress pain/suffering I and my family have been put through due to this discrimination/harassment. P.S. Hopefully this, if allowed to be filed will stop this from happening to anyone else at the Beckley VA Medical Center."