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Federal Employee Holds the Department of the Army Responsible for Whistleblower Retaliation

In Ingram v. Dept. of the Army, 2011 MSPB 71, the MSPB validated allegations of Whistleblowing Retaliation made by Ingram, an employee of the Department of Defense. The decision held that stripping Ingram of duties, denying his request for a transfer, issuing uncharacteristically low performance evaluations and finally transferring Ingram to a post with lesser responsibilities were all prohibited personnel practices that were tantamount to retaliation for his protected disclosures.

Mr. Ingram’s claims arose in June 2008, when an Army contractor requested to videotape and photograph a demonstration of its products at an Army facility alongside those of a competitor; recordings which Ingram suspected would later be used by contractor for future promotional purposes. Ingram opposed the request on the basis that the videotaping was not in line with the Department of Defense ethics regulations. The Army’s legal department determined that Mr. Ingram’s concerns were legitimate and advised that the demonstration was contrary to regulations.

Ingram's managers initially praised Ingram's initiative in seeking the legal opinion, but continued to push for formal authorization of the contractor's requests.

Ingram continued to raise concerns about possible violations of the Department of Defense’s ethical violations. The demonstration was eventually cancelled however, instead of praise, Ingram found himself stripped of oversight duties, denied a transfer request, and a recipient of unusually low performance evaluations, just prior to be transferred to a position that was in essence, a demotion.

After filing two petitions for review to the full Board, the MSPB eventually held that Ingrid was the subject of whistleblower retaliation and in a strongly worded opinion, the Army was order to return Ingrim to his former position together with all back pay.

The decision is consistent with a long line of MSPB case law that establishes, if nothing else, that tenacity and the aggressive representation of an attorney who represents federal employees are essential elements of an MSPB appeal.