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Press Release

Federal Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit Dismissed

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Spokane – Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that United States District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice dismissed a disability discrimination and whistleblower retaliation lawsuit brought by a former federal employee of the Department of Agriculture.

According to information disclosed during the court proceedings, Wendy Alguard, of Yakima, Washington, sued the Department of Agriculture (USDA) claiming that the Agricultural Marketing Service, where Alguard worked as a commodity food grader, had reassigned her after she reported that Snokist cannery was hiding totes of moldy applesauce in 2011. Alguard claimed that the USDA had ignored her disability and then punished her for whistleblowing, by reassigning her and eventually removing her from federal service when she refused a directed reassignment. Alguard initially brought administrative claims before the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the USDA’s EEO Office, and the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). She withdrew her claim with the OSC and her claim was rejected by the USDA and MSPB. Alguard’s lawsuit sought review of those decisions. She sought damages of about $600,000.

Judge Rice had earlier dismissed Alguard’s discrimination claim of alleged disability in October of 2014, which claim had previously been denied by USDA’s EEO Office. On August 20, 2015, Judge Rice dismissed the remaining claim, which claim sought review of the MSPB’s decision that found that the USDA had legitimately reassigned Alguard when revenue at the USDA’s Yakima facility dropped. Judge Rice found that the MSPB had applied the proper standard for determining such cases, that the MSPB’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, that the MSPB applied the law correctly, and that the MSPB’s decision was supported by substantial evidence.

Michael C. Ormsby stated, “I commend the outstanding efforts of the lawyers who defended this case. Claims of employment discrimination and whistleblowing in federal employment are taken seriously. But when lawsuits that lack merit are brought, this office will vigorously defend those suits in an effort to protect the public purse.”

This case was defended by Rudy J. Verschoor, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, with assistance from Zoey Kohn, Marissa Suarez, and Sarah Tuck, attorneys with the USDA’s Office of General Counsel.

Updated January 8, 2016

Press Release Number: 13-CV-3083-TOR