(also posted June 24)

Social Security Must Pay $100,000 Damages for Violating Worker’s Rights

 by James Parks, Jun 23, 2010   

Saying the Social Security Administration (SSA) flagrantly violated its contract with
AFGE and “trampled upon the rights” of a 14-year worker, an independent arbitrator has ordered the agency to pay her back wages with interest along with $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Magnolia Littles, a member of AFGE Local 3291 in Little Rock, Ark., was suspended for 90 days after a benefits payment she had approved turned out to be fraudulent. Patti McGowan, an attorney with AFGE, said the arbitrator found there was no substantial evidence that Littles—who has a spotless record at SSA—was negligent in her duties. The arbitrator found that SSA violated her rights by, among other things, not informing Littles she had a right to have a union representative present at her disciplinary meeting.

The agency also discriminated against her because of her race, the arbitrator said. Of the four employees who processed the fraudulent benefit payment, two African Americans, including Littles, received suspensions. A Latina was fired outright, but the lone white employee in the group was not disciplined at all.

“The strong language used by the arbitrator admonishing the agency illustrates the unabashed ferocity in which employees are treated under the current SSA leadership,” McGowan said.

This [awarding of punitive damages] is a first for an SSA local in arbitration. The unprecedented sums of damages awarded to our member should serve as a wake-up call. We won’t let these blatant injustices to our members stand.