What do Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Vilsack, Valerie Jarrett and Whistleblowers know that you don't? That there is ongoing sexual harassment and misconduct in the USDA Forestry Service.
An interview I contributed to concerning ongoing retaliation, harassment and misconduct at the U.S. Department of Agriculture aired
this weekend on Full Measure, Sinclair Broadcast Group. BURNED features a powerful interview about U.S. Forestry Service whistleblower Alicia Dabney who participates in my annual Whistleblower Summit for Civil & Human Rights on Capitol Hill. My interview also revealed racial discrimination and a 3,000 member USDA Class Action lawsuit that is
currently languishing before the EEOC.
FULL MEASURE: Female firefighter battles federal workplace discrimination
Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson by Sinclair Broadcasting Group
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) -- Alicia Dabney's account of alleged workplace discrimination sounds like something out of the last century. But the biggest surprise is it didn't happen in private business, but inside a federal agency that is supposed to be setting the standard for fair treatment.
"I was really lost and upset at what I had did, and the fact that I had committed a crime and, you know, what I had done to my family," Dabney said.
Dabney's crime was welfare fraud. At the time, she was a young mother of three living on an Indian reservation and caring for her husband, who'd been seriously injured in a suicide attempt. When she went back to work, she got caught collecting welfare she was no longer entitled to. She pleaded guilty and focused on a plan to pay the money back.
"I said, 'Firefighters, they work hard. They make good money and I've always wanted to be one, so I'm gonna go sign up and just push through it.'"
So in 2010, at age 27, Dabney landed her dream job as a firefighter with the Forest Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Working fires in New Mexico, Dabney was prepared for life or death situations. But she was unprepared for the hostility she faced back at the station in California's Region 5--covering 20 million acres in the Pacific Southwest.
Dabney: There was three females. And then, within a month, one had quit. And then, within two or three months, one was ran out for filing a sexual harassment claim. And then, pretty soon, it was only me. So then they, you know, started torturing me. This frat boy attitude and the bullying and being humiliated, being called fat, also being called a prostitute and it just drove me up the wall. I couldn't take it.
Attkisson: Do you think they were trying to be playful when they would call you these names?
Dabney: No, it's part of the culture.
Dabney didn't know it then, but Region 5, the Forest Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all had sordid histories of civil rights violations and discrimination dating back decades. Corrective actions ordered over the years didn't prevent Dabney from getting singled out, she says, as a Mexican-Native American and a woman.
Dabney: One of my captains was forcing me to tell him when I started my menstrual periods.
Attkisson: How did you report this? What did you do?
Dabney: Every month, when I would start my menstrual cycle, I would go in there, and I would cover my face with my hands and just say, you know, "I started my period," and be humiliated.