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Agriculture Department to Probe Unsafe Workplace Conditions at Research Center

Whistleblower complaint

Agriculture Department to Probe Unsafe Workplace Conditions at Research Center

The Office of Special Counsel has directed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to investigate claims of unsafe working conditions that have caused data loss and equipment damage at a research facility near Washington, D.C.

Personnel at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center filed whistleblower complaints in May describing dysfunctional safety systems and general facilities such as bathrooms. Reuters reported that a flood on Dec. 25, 2022, caused the destruction of data systems and scientific equipment.

In a letter to the American Federation of Government Employees, the OSC mentioned employee assertions that BARC leadership failed to properly maintain the structure.

Ward Morrow, assistant general counsel at AFGE and representative for the complainants, explained that the OSC only orders investigations by agency heads once a “substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” has been established.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has since shut down BARC to conduct repairs. A spokesperson for the agency said modernization of the facility would continue while the matter is investigated.

Vilsack was given 60 days to complete the probe into workplace conditions at BARC, FedScoop reported Monday.

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Category: Federal Civilian

Tags: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center federal civilian FedScoop Tom Vilsack unsafe working conditions US Department of Agriculture US Office of Special Counsel