17 Steps: A Federal Employee’s Guide for Tackling Workplace Discrimination, by Tanya Ward Jordan (Tanya Ward Jordan, M.S., 2018, 186 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
June 1, 2018 (San Diego) - Tanya Ward Jordan, M.S., President and Founder of The Coalition For Change, Inc., (C4C), has written an incisive and provocative book about the inner workings of the federal government; 17 Steps: A Federal Employee’s Guide for Tackling Workplace Discrimination, that is a must read.
Having written more than 250 book reviews, two of which contributed towards the authors winning the NAACP Image Award in Literature; Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Gregory Reed’s Obama Talks Back, I jumped at the opportunity of writing this review of Jordan’s 17 Steps, for it resonates with me in so many profound and personal ways.
From the very beginning of this book, the author makes a profound statement that captures the essence of what she attempts to convey: “In closing this chapter, I say, decisively, the federal government is not a model employer. Moreover, to the detriment of the American public, the government does not include all people in its business practices. Therefore, if you work for the government or if you plan to work in government, do yourself a favor: prepare to fight the giant! To start, take these two well-being mental health steps. First, save for survival. Second, learn your redress options.” Basically, what Jordan is saying is; “prepare for the long haul!”
Jordan chronicles her long and at times painful history in federal government employment in this well written and documented book. It is a how-to guide for federal employees and job applicants challenging unfair treatment in the federal workplace.
The tone and tenor of this well written and documented book by Jordan is established by her following statement; “As a black, American female in the federal government, I have traveled frequently through storms of inequality. Once, I had a supervisor pay me two grades (thousands of dollars) less than four white males doing the same job. On another occasion I had a supervisor deny me a salary increase for an outstanding performance rating I earned, even though he freely gave salary increases to my white peers with similar ratings. Furthermore, I’ve had another supervisor assign me to a storage area to work.” I feel her pain!
The author further states: “To my harm, I have surely suffered inequities as a public servant. I have endured pain emotionally, physically, and financially from federal workplace injustice. Therefore, as a way to promote my own self-healing and to promote the wellbeing of those facing similar mistreatment, I have written this helpful guide. The guidebook covers laws, court laws, court decisions, redress options, and strategies one should know before marching blindly into the government’s federal EEO complaint system, or should I say more fittingly – the lion’s den.” Again, I feel her pain!
17 Steps: A Federal Employee’s Guide for Tackling Workplace Discrimination, offers winning ways for employees to protect their well-being and to fight unlawful practices when navigating through the grueling Federal Equal Employment Opportunity “EEO” complaint process. The book – complete with diagrams, sample letters, personal testimony, web-link references, and case analysis – will provide invaluable help to employees facing federal workplace issues.
Jordan’s book is like preaching to the choir, for as a former Department of Defense employee, I have gone through the EEO process that she speaks of, all the way to the Supreme Court. Everyone doesn’t win in this process, but it is very important for everyone to define for themselves what winning actually means to them. In some instances, as in my case, it can be as simple as peace of mind and sanity. Those can’t be defined in monetary terms. Read attached Moore v. MSPB here.
Step 13 in this book actually is titled: “Unload Stress”, with Jordan specifically stating: “According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), job stress poses a threat to the health of workers. Evidence supports the fact that stress plays an important role in chronic health problems and psychological disorders. When workplace stress harms your ability to do your job or to manage your personal life, it is beyond time to unload stress. Stress wears down the body’s systems. It leads to premature mortality.” This is another instance in which Jordan’s book is like preaching to the choir, for in my more than 30 year battle with the Department of Defense for redress, all I have to show for it is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Jordan emphasizes in this book that federal employees will learn how to:
- Manage Workplace Stress
- Prove A Prima Facie Discrimination Case
- Fight Unlawful Adverse Personnel Actions
- Get The Most From Settlement Talks
- Argue Claims Successfully With Proven Case Law
- Request Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act Records
- Avoid Common EEO Counseling and Complaint Filing Mistakes
- Pursue Reasonable Accomodations and Family Medical Leave
- File A Worker’s Compensation Claim and A Federal Tort Claim
- Commence An Employment Lawsuit In Court … and MORE!
This book is a template for success in the federal government for employees tackling workplace discrimination.
Ironically, Jordan writes in this book her involvement and support of the No Fear Act, legislation spearheaded by Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who subsequently wrote the book No Fear: A Whistleblower’s Triumph Over Corruption And Retaliation At The EPA, which this writer would write a book review of. The further irony is that I would incorporate the No Fear Act as a claim in my own federal lawsuit against the Merit Systems Protection Board, which would wind itself through the federal district court in San Diego, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately the Supreme Court.
Jordan chronicles and profiles a number of federal lawsuits tackling workplace discrimination, most notably, Williams v. Dodaro, 806 F. Supp. 2d 246 (2011), and Civil Action No. 1:07-CV-1452. In this case, the late Diane Williams named her former supervisor, Anne Wagner as an alleged discriminating official. Ironically, after Anne Wagner would become vice chair of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), this writer too would file a federal lawsuit against Wagner, which would wind itself through the federal district court in San Diego, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, and ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
The author describes Diane Williams thusly; “Diane Williams – A Civil Rights Trailblazer”, notably due to Title VII being used successfully for the first time in a sexual harassment case; Williams v. Saxbe, 413 F. Supp. 654. Jordan points out in her book that the case was decided on April 20, 1976 in Williams’ favor.
Some interesting revelations came out of the Williams v. Dodaro lawsuit, namely, that Anne Wagner lied to Congress in her confirmation hearing to become Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which this writer challenged in his lawsuit against her. Wagner was specifically asked if there were any conflicts of interests in her past at the time of her confirmation hearing – Wagner omitted the fact that was she embroiled in the federal lawsuit with Diane Williams at that very time and that she was an alleged discriminating official and the one that actually proposed the firing of Diane Williams, which the court records would indicate was a very contentious and abrasive act by Wagner against Williams.
Another significant case and federal lawsuit that the author chronicles and profiles, is that of Anthony Perry v. U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Case No. 16-399. This pro se litigant, and C4C member, took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, and won! Mr. Perry inspired me to do the same, although I was not as successful as him. Read the attached Anthony Perry v. U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board here.
Jordan’s book is sprinkled with biblical and scriptural anecdotes, which actually gives insight into her heart and soul. Specifically, Proverbs 4:23-27. This remarkable woman states in her book 17 Steps: “The night of December 13, 2008, the pain of discrimination replayed in my mind like a scratched record on a turntable. I kept seeing the Justice Department attorney’s mocking face. Likewise, I kept seeing the puffed-up faces of the Commerce Department’s discriminating managers who had dodged discipline. As I tossed in bed, I weighed the option of accepting the government’s offer to end my decade long complaint. From my pillow, I prayerfully and tearfully asked: Lord, what am I to do? After releasing those words, an unexpected calm fell over me. I lifted up from the bed, I walked toward my computer, and, without any earlier plans to do so, I trademarked the name The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C).”
The author sums up this amazing book by further stating: “The next morning, Sunday, December 14, 2008, I asked myself: What have I done? As I sat befuddled, sipping coffee in the kitchen, an inner voice summoned me to reach for my Bible. When I grabbed for it, a page opened to Solomon’s Proverbs. The heading read: A Father’s Advice. As I prayed for understanding, I studied the passage Proverbs 4: 23-27. I kept highlighting the words with my yellow marker until I submitted to a mighty inner call for me to attend church. Less than two hours later, I entered Zion Church in Landover, Maryland. The choir sang in harmony – “Let justice and praise be my embrace.” Their melodious and righteous words caused my tears to fall. When the music stopped, Pastor Keith Battle of Zion Church emerged and he declared:
Some of you are taking a follower’s position when God has called you to lead. So today, I am going to share with you instructions to build your character that will determine your future success. You will need these instructions as you take on that David and Goliath fight.
Next, a large screen emerged with the words of Solomon’s Proverbs 4:23-27. The Pastor started explaining the passage the Holy Spirit had revealed to me only hours before coming to church. On Sunday, December 14, 2008, I received confirmation of my life’s purpose to lead and help others in The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C). I know, without a doubt, God calls me to use the C4C platform to promote equality in the Federal workplace and to improve the lives of mistreated Americans.”
To follow Jordan’s biblical and scriptural anecdote, there is another passage in the Bible that is appropriate for what she has written. It is at Proverbs 27-2, which states: “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” I choose to praise the author for what she has written in 17 Steps: A Federal Employee’s Guide For Tackling Workplace Discrimination, for I feel it will guide and assist many other similarly situated current and former federal employees.
There are many other women throughout history that have championed the cause of the maligned and disenfranchised, such as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, but after reading this book and the numerous phone conversations and email communications that I have had with the author over the years, she certainly deserves to be included in that group. As a matter of fact, in 2014, Jordan received the Fannie Lou Hamer Civil Rights Activist of the Year recognition from the African American Voice Newspaper, which reminds me of Hamer’s time-honored phrase: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
Once she learned the joy and benefit of advocating for others, Jordan reached out to elected officials, like Representative Elijah Cummings. She shared with the Congressman some ideas she had to promote a healthier workplace within the federal government. On July 11, 2017, Congressman Cummings recognized her contributions in support of federal EEO program reforms. Her input for federal reforms were reflected in a bill, known as the Federal Employee Anti-discrimination Act of 2017, which addresses discrimination in the federal workplace.
This is a book that everyone should have in their possession, especially current and former federal employees needing guidance on tackling workplace discrimination.
Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and he is the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine, as well as a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.