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Federal Investigation Reveals that Air Force Unlawfully Punished Air Force Mortuary Whistleblowers

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On January 31, 2012, investigators from the Office of Special Counsel reported that Air Force officials at the Dover military mortuary unlawfully punished four civilian workers who reported numerous incidents in which the mortuary mishandled deceased soldiers’ remains. The whistleblowers, who included mortuary inspectors and embalming and autopsy technicians, alleged that their supervisors retaliated against them for disclosing to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) that mortuary workers mishandled soldiers’ body parts. Employees who reported these matters to the OSC were issued five day suspensions, placed on indefinite administrative leave, or terminated.

Based on the employees’ reports, the Office of Special Counsel conducted an initial investigation in November and found that the mortuary had engaged in “gross mismanagement”, where it misplaced body parts of troops killed in Afghanistan. The Air Force acknowledged that it punished the three supervisors who were responsible for the facility’s mishandling remains, but it did not discipline the supervisors who retaliated against those who had reported their wrongdoing. The Office of Special Counsel then began a separate investigation under the Whistleblower Protection Act to look into the whistleblowers’ retaliation claims.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley has taken action based on the results of the latest investigation.  Donley reported on that he had appointed a two-star general to review the specific findings and take “appropriate action.”

“There is no place for reprisal in the Air Force. Reprisals against employees are unethical and illegal and counter to Air Force core values,” stated Donley.

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

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