So much for firing those who disrespect their colleagues on the spot!
The White House acknowledged Monday that President Biden’s top science adviser, Dr. Eric Lander, will be allowed to keep his job — even though an internal review found credible evidence that he bullied and demeaned his staffers.
The decision to keep Lander as director of the administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is clearly at odds with Biden’s day-one vow to fire any staffers who mistreat their colleagues.
“If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect or talk down to someone, I promise you, I will fire you on the spot,” Biden said in remarks to his new employees on Inauguration Day last year.
When pressed repeatedly about the president’s vow Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki refused to say whether the decision not to fire Lander “cheapens” Biden’s promise.
“I would say that the president’s hope — all of our hope — is certainly that Dr. Lander will abide by making changes, that he will be held to account to — to comply fully with the steps that needed to be taken,” she said.
Lander, who will undergo counseling, apologized to his staffers on Friday, admitting, “I have spoken to colleagues within OSTP in a disrespectful or demeaning way.”
“I am deeply sorry for my conduct,” he added. “I especially want to apologize to those of you who I treated poorly, or were present at the time.”
The investigation into Lander was triggered last year by a workplace complaint from his then-general counsel, Rachel Wallace, Politico reported.
The review’s findings found that Lander treated staffers disrespectfully and violated the department’s “Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy.”
Recordings and documents related to the probe, which were obtained by the outlet, found that Lander had bullied other female staffers in addition to Wallace.
“The investigation found credible evidence of instances of multiple women having complained to other staff about negative interactions with Dr. Lander, where he spoke to them in a demeaning or abrasive way in front of other staff,” Christian Peele, the White House’s deputy director of management and administration for personnel, said in the recording.
Of the roughly 140 staffers in the office, 14 current and former employees said they had experienced a toxic environment working under Lander. Nine of those staffers claimed Lander would yell and humiliate employees in front of their peers.
The review didn’t find evidence of gender-based discrimination and the reassignment of the staffer who filed the initial complaint last year was “appropriate,” according to the White House.
With Post wires