The National Whistleblowers Center will recognize Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear, who spent years reporting — and facing retaliation for reporting — discriminatory and abusive behavior by her superiors.
Young Mc-Lear, who is Black and lesbian, had not previously spoken publicly about her story, which includes years of abuse at the military academy. She said her superiors would belittle, scapegoat and undermine her. She attempted to report the mistreatment but said the complaint process failed her. In 2018, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general report found the Coast Guard mishandled the complaints process and gave Young-McLear low marks on an evaluation performance report after she made the complaints.
Stories like hers are evidently not unique. She is just one of 50 people who are receiving the honor.
Young-McLear also spoke to Military.com on behalf of those who can no longer speak for themselves after harassment and hazing led them to suicide.
“I want to use this public opportunity to affirm the dignity of victims and their families while still advocating for honest, efficient and accountable workplace environments in the military,” she said.
She referenced the cases of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Harry Lew and Army Pvt. Danny Chen, who both died by suicide after hazing incidents.
Following Young-McLear’s reports, another member of the Coast Guard academy — a white woman — made a complaint after enduring mandatory bullying and hazing training at the hands of the department head in 2018.
The academy removed the department head several months after.
Young-McLear became a member of the permanent commissioned teaching staff at her academy in 2014. She filed several complaints against her boss, a white man, for harassment and a hostile work environment, regarding, in part, her race, gender and sexual orientation. At first, two Coast Guard admirals who were handling the investigation said her complaints were unsubstantiated. However, the investigator found that though there may not have been blatant acts of discrimination or bullying, the overall workplace environment could reasonably be considered intimidating, hostile and abusive.
Following the inspector general report, members of Congress asked the Coast Guard to turn over documents regarding to the handling of these types of complaints.
Capt. Tony Russell, Chief of the Coast Guard’s Office of Public Affairs, told Military.com that the Coast Guard had taken action in response to the inspector general report, including revising their civil rights manual to clarify complaints regarding Coast Guard retaliation for whistleblowers should be filed with the inspector general.
Coast Guard members are required to undergo workplace harassment training but does not cover workplace bullying.
National Whistleblower Appreciation Day is July 30, the anniversary of when the Founding Fathers, in 1778, passed the country’s first whistleblower law, which states “it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof” to report misconduct by those in service.