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Arbitrator Awards $1 to Prison Worker in Harassment and Retaliation Claim

John K. Faber had been employed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) since 1981. He held the position of Specialty Instructor at the Staff Training Academy (STA) in Artesia, New Mexico, when in 1997 he was informed he was being transferred to STA Glynco (Georgia) and would be assigned as a firearms instructor. Faber complained to the BOP Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) that his transfer was retaliatory.

Faber said he was told soon thereafter that if he continued to challenge the transfer, his new supervisor would retaliate against him, which Faber said was exactly what happened. According to Faber, while at Glynco he was passed over for choice job assignments and training opportunities, as well as promotions.

Faber did not file a complaint regarding the alleged Glynco retaliation. Faber's filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice which alleged that two years after his transfer, the same supervisor that passed him over for promotions and choice assignments announced at a department head meeting that Faber was under investigation by the OIA and that nobody else had anything to worry about, "that they were just coming to get me," Faber wrote. Faber also said that after he became aware of these remarks, his supervisor "threatened to do physcical and emotional harm to me, as well as to destroy my career." Faber finally alleged that his supervisor's comments about the OIA investigation caused him "humiliation, embarrassment, and pain," and violated the terms of his union's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which prohibits "harassment, intimidation, reprisal, or coercion."

The case proceeded to a hearing before an independent arbitrator, who found that the supervisor did in fact make the statements, and that they were made solely out of a dislike for Faber and with the intent to cause him discomfort in the workplace. The arbitrator also concluded that the statements violated the plain language of the CBA, and that Faber was therefore entitled to damages.

However, Faber failed to show that he was in any way harmed by the remarks, the arbitrator wrote. The supervisor's statement "was not so extreme and outrageous so that a reasonable person would be permanently psychologically damaged by it," the arbitrator ruled.

As such, Faber was awarded nominal damages of only $1.00. In addition, the arbitrator held that the costs of arbitration, which totaled over $3,400, was to be borne equally by each party.

See: In the Matter of the Arbitration Between Federal Bureau of Prisons (John Faber, Grievant) and American Federation of Government Employees Local 500, FMCS No. 02114 (Sept. 6, 2000).

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Related legal case

In the Matter of the Arbitration Between Federal Bureau of Prisons (John Faber, Grievant) and American Federation of Government Employees Local 500