The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bill Boteler (202) 265-7337

Racial Harassment Rife in EPA Enforcement Office

'Management Mafia' Condones Slurs and Adverse Acts While Resisting Remedies


In a blistering ruling the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission has found that racially "discriminatory and demeaning
comments and adverse treatment" were "severe" and "permeated the
workplace" in an enforcement branch of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. Rather than address complaints by employees the
agency circled the wagons around its problem manager and filed dilatory
appeals, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

The case involves EPA Special Agent George De Los Santos, who is
based in the Criminal Investigations Division office in Dallas. He had
complained of a pattern of discriminatory comments, including -

  • His supervisor accusing him of stealing license plates and reselling them for profit in Mexico;
  • Women co-workers were routinely referred to as "pussies";
  • Native
    American co-workers were called names like "Squatting Eagle" and "Two
    Dogs F__king" while an African-American colleague was ridiculed as
    mentally slow.

De Los Santos' supervisor dismissed this conduct
as "just Special Agent grab-assing" and admonished that "you need to
act like a man" and stop complaining. Significantly, the EEO Commission
found that:

"Here, many of the offensive comments...occurred in front of
supervisors immediately after a meeting about EEO issues, demonstrating
that agency officials did not take EEO issues seriously."

EPA rejected De Los Santos' complaint, issuing a finding of no
discrimination. He appealed to the EEOC which reversed; finding not
only was there a hostile work environment but also a series of
discriminatory actions such as assigning De Los Santos to custodial
duties. Rather than accept the EEOC ruling, EPA filed a request for
reconsideration, dragging the matter out for nearly eight more months.
EEOC rejected this appeal on August 4, 2008 and ordered EPA to post a
notice of its ruling in its Dallas Office.

Throughout, EPA has defended the supervisory agent and even gave him
a "Manager of the Year" award. Now, EPA must decide whether to
implement the EEOC order or appeal it to federal court.

"In many federal agencies there is a management mafia that will
defend one of their own no matter how outrageous the conduct," stated
PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein. "In our experience, EPA employees
who file complaints are subjected to a new ordeal, presided over by an
Office of General Counsel that gives no quarter and is willing to use
every tactic to delay, discourage and demonize."

In recent years, EPA has been the subject of a number of high
profile discrimination complaints and EPA employees agitated for the
enactment of a law called the "No Fear Act" to make how federal
agencies handle discrimination complaints more transparent.

Read the De Los Santos EEOC decision

Look at the EEOC rejection of the EPA appeal

Visit the No Fear Coalition

See rising discontent among EPA rank and file

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.