WASHINGTON – In early February, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer Robert Henry tragically took his own life at Orlando International Airport following the longest government shutdown in history, which kept TSA officers working without pay for 35 straight days.
New reporting sheds light on some of the contributing factors that led to Henry’s tragic death, including a culture of workplace bullying and retaliation from supervisors at Orlando International Airport.
“Our hearts go out to Robert’s friends, family, and coworkers, who are certainly still grieving from this terrible loss,” said American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National President J. David Cox Sr. “No one should have to suffer through the pain that Robert was obviously experiencing at work, and to hear that it may have been a contributing factor in his untimely death is simply tragic.”
“AFGE strongly condemns workplace bullying in any and all forms. There is absolutely no place for this kind of behavior in the workplace,” Cox continued. “But workplace bullying is especially inexcusable when it takes the form of retaliation and bullying of employees by their supervisors.
Hydrick Thomas, president of AFGE’s TSA Council, which represents more than 44,000 TSA officers throughout the nation, expressed similar sentiments.
“It is never ok for an employee to be bullied at work. To hear that bullying may have contributed to this TSA officer’s tragic and untimely death shows a failure of leadership at TSA,” said Thomas. “TSA must take action to address the culture of bullying that has taken root at Orlando International Airport. Our brave TSA officers go through a tremendous amount of specialized training, take an oath to protect our country, and come to work every day to ensure the safety of the flying public. They deserve so much better.”
According to the news report, several TSA officers blew the whistle about workplace bullying, but TSA management refused to address the behavior.
In March, the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, released a watchdog report on TSA’s failures to hire, recruit and retain the TSO workforce that have resulted in high turnover rates. The report cited poor management including disrespect, promotion of negative work environment, and lack of trust as one of the six main reasons TSA officers leave their jobs.
Today, TSA Administrator David Pekoske will testify before the House Committee on Homeland Security. AFGE is calling on members of the committee to question him about steps that TSA will take to address these new reports.
“Congress must use this opportunity to address these extremely troubling reports with TSA Administrator Pekoske and get answers about what steps he will take to make sure no TSA officer ever again has to go through what Robert Henry went through,” said Cox.