Reprisal has no place in the workplace

Maj. Craig McCuin
USAFE IG Chief, Complaints and Inquiries Division

The following anecdote is completely fictitious and its sole purpose is
to help you understand what reprisal is in the Air Force.  

Staff Sgt. Smith had just received PCS orders and had about six months
to go before his PCS and he knew that his enlisted performance report
would be due. Master Sgt. Jones, his supervisor, had told him during
his midterm feedback that he was excellent in all areas.  

A couple of weeks went by and Sergeant Smith was conducting a routine
audit on the individual equipment inventory when he noticed that 100
gas masks had been signed out to the maintenance squadron the previous
month, which was higher than normal.

Sergeant Smith contacted the MXS unit deployment manager, who informed
him that 80 members of the squadron had deployed. This seemed odd since
100 gas masks had been signed out to the squadron at that time.  

That afternoon, Sergeant Smith bumped into Sergeant Jones and asked him
about the gas masks. Sergeant Jones confirmed that 80 members from the
23rd Maintenance Squadron had deployed in April. He went on to say that
the extra 20 masks were provided to newly arrived members of the

Later that month, Sergeant Smith was at home checking eBay for old
military collectible items. He started his usual search and a gas mask
came up as one of the items being auctioned. To his surprise, the gas
mask looked exactly like the gas masks his squadron issued out. Upon
further review, he noticed the seller had an APO address.  

The next day, Sergeant Smith made an appointment to see Sergeant Jones
and told him what he had seen. He also told him that he had informed
the commander and the Office of Special Investigations about what he
had found.  
The following Monday, OSI contacted Sergeant Jones and asked him to
conduct an interview. During the interview Sergeant Jones admitted to
the agent that he signed the gas masks out to the unit and then
proceeded to sell them on eBay.  

Sergeant Jones was upset about the entire situation. He was determined
to get back at Sergeant Smith and submitted a 3 EPR on him.

What happens next:                  
In this scenario, in order to determine whether or not reprisal
occurred, I would first like to define reprisal and then explain what
four conditions must be met in order to substantiate it.  

Reprisal, as defined in AFI 90-301, Inspector General Complaints
Resolution, is taking or threatening to take an unfavorable personnel
action or withholding or threatening to withhold a favorable personnel
action on a military member for making or preparing a protected

The four conditions that must be met for reprisal to have occurred are
rolled up into what is called the Acid Test. I will identify each
condition separately with an explanation from the scenario.  

1.  Did the military member make or prepare a protected disclosure
protected by statute or Department of Defense directive? Yes. Sergeant
Smith communicated to his commander and the OSI about the gas masks
being sold on eBay.

2.  Was an unfavorable personnel action taken or threatened; or
was a favorable action withheld, or threatened to be withheld,
following the protected disclosure? Yes. Sergeant Jones submitted a 3
EPR on Sergeant Smith, which can be considered a negative personnel

3.  Did the official(s) responsible for taking, withholding or
threatening the personnel action know about the protected
communication? Yes. Sergeant Smith told Sergeant Jones that he reported
the situation to the commander and OSI.

4.  Does the preponderance of the evidence establish that the
personnel action would have been taken, withheld or threatened if the
protected communication had not been made? No. From the story, it
appears that Sergeant Jones was getting back at Sergeant Smith for
reporting the situation by giving him a downgraded EPR.

The bottom line is that members who violate the prohibition against
reprisal are subject to prosecution under Article 92 of the UCMJ. If
you are a supervisor, ensure you take or withhold personnel actions for
the right reasons. If you have any questions about reprisal, contact
your chain of command and/or your local IG office.