Two employees that were accused of harassing of a colleague at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Oakland hospital last month, which included tying him up with duct tape, are being fired.
According to statements in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, five other employees received lesser disciplinary actions, including one employee that was at first considered for termination. The Pittsburgh VA did not explain in its statement why that employee was not terminated.
“These actions underscore our commitment to promoting a safe and inclusive work environment for all of our employees,” said Barbara Forsha, VA Pittsburgh’s interim director.
A Trib News Live article states that VA officials have notified all seven employees of their options to appeal Forsha’s decision.
This recent disciplinary action follows a June 11 complaint of harassment, which then kicked off an internal investigation that has led to the seven employees being disciplined, the VA said in an email.
After the initial investigation, the acting Deputy Director at the time, Jason Haines, proposed firing three workers and disciplining four. The employees had 14 and 30-day windows to respond to the proposed discipline, per the collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2028.
Discipline for the five workers who didn’t lose their jobs could range from formal reprimands to suspension without pay.
Local AFGE president Kathi Dahl has so far not responded to phone calls.
The pace of discipline in this case directly contrasts the more than 2 years that it took the VA to act in the case of a Legionnaires’ outbreak that occurred at the Pittsburgh VA in 2011 and 2012. The outbreak sickened 22 veterans and eventually led to the deaths of six more.
This past Tuesday, VA Secretary Robert McDonald, who was in Pittsburgh to give a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, used this case to demonstrate how he is attempting to change “the culture” of the VA so that “people follow our values.”
The VA states that it requires all of its employees to take workplace harassment training annually. However, in light of this new harassment case, employees will be required to take additional workplace harassment training.
Another change includes a focus group created by the VA Pittsburgh’s executive leadership. The group is intended to encourage employees to share their experiences, complaints and proposed solutions to workplace issues.