Whistleblow While You Work
Citing laws designed to protect institutional whistleblowers, the Labor Department has ordered the U.S. EPA to reinstate a former investigator to “ombudsman-related duties.” The department concluded that EPA policy analyst Hugh Kaufman was removed from those duties in retaliation for complaining about the agency — in other words, for doing his job too well. As an assistant to former EPA Ombudsman Robert Martin, Kaufman investigated complaints against the EPA’s handling of hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program. That job inevitably made him a nuisance to his coworkers — and to his superiors — because it involved challenging their decisions, sometimes in embarrassing and high-profile cases. In December 2000, the agency stripped Kaufman of ombudsman duties, claiming, among other things, that he tried to humiliate EPA officials and was biased against the agency. Kaufman challenged the decision; now, the agency plans to challenge the Labor Department ruling before an administrative law judge.