It is terrifying how quickly a workplace disagreement can spiral out of control and implicate racial, police and hate crime matters. A former U.S. Army Corp of Engineers employee pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal officer. The statements in question were in regard as to how a picture of a Confederate battle flag found itself onto the desk of a co-worker. Reportedly, the defendant twice lied to the investigating officer, denying any involvement.
It was later revealed that she printed the image from a home computer and placed it on her co-worker’s desk without her co-worker knowing. The desk in question belonged to an African-American employee. This poorly timed and not well thought out act took place one week after the Charleston church shootings. The defendant later admitted that she did indeed place the image on the desk but denied there was any racial motivation. She argued that she had a long, contentious working relationship with this person and that this was simply the next move.
This, unfortunately, is an example of how workplace disagreements can spiral out of control. The defendant does not face federal prison because she took a work disagreement too far; she is facing prison because she was caught lying to a federal officer. This article underscores that should you choose to speak to federal authorities, you are under a duty to tell the truth, as best as you know it. Failure to do so could result in severe consequences.
If you are questioned by Federal authorities, you have the right to have counsel present. An attorney may be able to help you articulate your position in an effort to avoid any unnecessary criminal charges.
Source: ABA Journal, “Ex-federal worker faces possible 5-year sentence for lies about workplace Confederate flag incident,” Debra Cassens Weiss, Dec. 28, 2015