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Report: DOJ officials likely didn’t create hostile workplace

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Three high-level state Justice Department administrators likely didn’t contribute to a hostile workplace environment, according to newly released department records.

Attorney General Josh Kaul asked two University of Wisconsin System attorneys to look into allegations against Deputy Attorney General Eric Wilson, Division of Criminal Investigation Administrator Brian O’Keefe and Human Resources Director Jayne Swingen. The department released their report Friday afternoon.

Kaul’s request came after his office received complaints of a hostile workplace in November 2019, DOJ spokeswoman Gillian Drummond said. The office also was the subject of a federal complaint this past April from Division of Law Enforcement Services Administrator Tina Virgil, who alleged that she was being underpaid and harassed because she’s a Black woman.

According to Virgil’s complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, her salary when she took over as administrator in 2019 was less than her white predecessor, she remains the second-lowest paid administrator at the Justice Department and she’s paid less than some deputy administrators who are white but rank below her.

Virgil also alleged that since she took over the position, she has encountered a hostile work environment that included Wilson’s angry outbursts whenever she or another woman disagreed with him. She accused O’Keefe, who is white, of recording phone calls with her as part of an effort to initiate “an adverse employment action against me.”

The UW System attorneys’ report is heavily redacted and it’s not clear how directly linked the investigation is to Virgil’s allegations. If her name was mentioned it has been blacked out. The report also mentions complaints from other female employees whose names were either left out or redacted.

The attorneys concluded that Wilson treated women differently but not because they were women, he may not have handled a public records request properly, likely didn’t discriminate against people in the workplace and likely took action on reports of alleged misconduct and discrimination in the workplace.

Nothing supports allegations O’Keefe used abusive language, bullied or harassed female employees, although it’s likely he at times “engaged in concerning conduct” when he disagreed with his co-workers that “negatively impacted” employees, according to the report.

The attorneys noted Swingen was accused of ignoring complaints about pay inequity, harassment and misconduct. They concluded nothing supported those allegations.

Virgil’s attorney, Lester Pines, said the investigation was based on interviews with witnesses in a process that didn’t allow them to be challenged. He also complained the report was so heavily redacted it’s impossible to evaluate the attorneys’ conclusions.

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