“TSA has a saying: If you see something, say something,” according to Alyssa, a 33-year-old Bronze Star-awarded soldier who used to work at the agency’s headquarters. “Little did I know that when I said something, I would be fighting the agency.”
After serving in Iraq, Alyssa left the military in 2011. In 2014 she moved from a contractor position to a full-time employee position with the Transportation Security Agency. She was enthusiastic about working for another Iraq vet, but that enthusiasm didn’t last long.
Other male superiors made it very uncomfortable to be around, with their constant ogling and jokes. They would sometimes make snickering remarks that her beauty would win her a place in a harem.
So she said something, and she lost her job in retaliation — just five days before the end of her probationary period as a new employee.
You may have heard that you have no recourse if you’re terminated during a probationary period, but that’s not quite true. If the probationary period is used to conceal discrimination, that’s illegal.
It’s also a big problem for management, according to a House oversight committee report. “As a result of a chilling culture of intimidation and retaliation at the Transportation Security Administration,” the committee wrote, “security gaps go unaddressed, and senior employees are not held accountable for misconduct.”
The TSA issued the typical anodyne statement about taking all discrimination and harassment allegations seriously. Alyssa’s case has been reviewed with no initial finding of wrongdoing and is in the midst of appeal. The agency told The Washington Post that, although it does not typically discuss cases in litigation, it intends to demonstrate that Alyssa’s termination was warranted.
Yet Alyssa’s not alone in her allegations. The Office of Special Counsel, which investigates employment complaints by federal employees, had already received 121 complaints from TSA workers by the end of November. That’s on top of 87 filed last year.
Every workplace has its culture. That culture will include input from everyone who works there, but it should be driven by management. If you feel you are being harassed at work or facing retaliation for standing your ground, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help.