WorkplaceYesterday the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced that it has facilitated a settlement agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) following a complaint by a VA psychiatrist that she had been discriminated against by managers at a VA facility because she was a lesbian.   

According to the OSC, managers at a VA medical center in Louisville threatened to remove Dr. Patricia Kinne based on patient complaints about her sexual orientation.  The patients cited her sexual orientation as the basis for requesting to be served by a different psychiatrist.  However, upon investigation, the OSC determined that such complaints against Dr. Kinne were far from common and the treatment she received was harsher than that received by other doctors.  In fact, out of several hundred "change-of-provider" requests from patients being served by psychiatrists at the medical center, only the two requests referencing Dr. Kinne's sexual orientation were considered as potential corrective or disciplinary issues.  Dr. Kinne also had no other reported performance or conduct issues, and was actually commended by the VA previously for have few patient complaints.   

As a result of the settlement, the VA has agreed to provide full relief to Dr. Kinne and to provide training to managers and human resources staff at the Louisville medical center.  The VA will also notify staff that they are not required to conceal their sexual orientation when working with patients.  

In response to the settlement Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner provided that “These protections exist to ensure we have a federal workforce based on merit and free of discrimination. Enforcement of these protections ensures that the federal government is welcoming to LGBT employees.”  

The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated health system in the country with 152 medical centers and more than 1,400 community based outpatient clinics, community centers, and community living facilities.   

Filed under: Federal Advocacy, Workplace

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