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marcelWhistleblowers is presented in coordination with Marcel Reid and the Whistleblowers Summit July 27-29, 2016 in Washington D.C.

Jonel Wagoner, Darlene Hall, Lesa Donnelly will be our guests this evening to discuss the ongoing retaliation, harassment and intimidation they have suffered while in the employ of the US Forestry Service.

In this male dominated field, the inclusion of women in firefighting and even in archaeology is treated with contempt.    BIO’S  below ……..

Bio:     Darlene Hall lives in Lancaster, California.

Born in Massachusetts, moved to California in 1980.

Employed by; USDA – Forest Service, Angeles National Forest

Current Position: Forest Fire Aviation Officer

Darlene started working for the US Forest Service in 1980 at a Young Adult Conservation Corp. (YACC) on the Los Padres National Forest, Region 5, California. This was a Recreation Trails/Fire Crew. She quickly moved into being a crew supervisor and worked until 1984.

In spring of 1987 Darlene was asked to come back to the Forest Service and be the Youth Conservation Corp Crew Leader (YCC) for the program between the Los Padres National Forest and Santa Barbara County Schools. In August of that year after the program, she was asked if she would go into the Fire organization, and work on the Pine Canyon Engine and assist in the driving. (This was due to her experience working with heavy equipment when she lived on the East coast.)

Darlene has worked in Fire since 1987 – all in California, Region 5. Throughout her career, starting on the Los Padres National Forest she has endured Job Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Bullying, Name Calling, Work Place Violence, and blatant Reprisal for reporting it.

In 1990 Darlene joined the Local Union as a Steward to help clean up blatant violations against the employees and their negotiated rights, and to address unequal treatment from management and others toward the employees. In 1995 she became the Local Union president and held that position until 2002 when she left the Los Padres National Forest. Darlene’s goal was to create an all-inclusive and positive working environment for all employees. This is still her goal.

While working for the US Forest Service, Darlene was one of the 6000 Forest Service active class members in the 1995 California class action lawsuit (Donnelly v. Glickman; Donnelly v. Veneman). Prior to this class action Darlene had filed an EEO complaint on sexual harassment and discrimination on hiring practice (non-selection) for only promoting male employees in fire. For example, a local Fire Management Officer told her that he would let her know when, where, and how she would promote when he felt like it. It was widely known that he only promoted men past the GS-5 level. Since the Donnelly class action (and Consent Decree) Darlene has filed numerous other EEO Complaints for Reprisal, discrimination, sexual harassment, and discriminatory hiring practices.

During Darlene’s 27+ years Fire career in the Forest Service – Region 5 she has endured dead, rotten, and road kill animals placed in her fire pack and on her driving seat on the engine. She has been called derogatory and profane names and comments, to her face and in front of male peers. She has been denied promotions while male peers received them. Often she was expected to

perform those duties without the promotion. Numerous times Darlene was denied promotions for which she was clearly the higher qualified candidate, but males that were hired. She was held to a different process than male peers for fire qualification upgrades. She was denied developmental training that would enhance her career and make her competitive to male peers. Darlene was denied fire assignments she needed to stay current in fire qualifications, while only males were ordered to fill those positions. She was selected for a promotion but the Regional Human Resources Office delayed it, and after 7 months pulled and improperly disqualified her from the position. Darlene has endured wide spread defamation of her character, work ethic, knowledge and abilities due to male managers in the region and at the Regional Office purposely discrediting her.

In 2013, three months after her former male supervisor of six years retired, she received her first of two promotions. He had been providing potential employers false information about her performance when contacted as a reference check. During that time Darlene worked for him she applied for over 50 job promotions with no success until the supervisor retired.

On several occasions Darlene traveled to Washington, D.C. and talked personally with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell about the discriminatory practices against female firefighters and others. She also met with other assigned personnel from the Department of Agriculture and Forest Service to discuss these matters. She met with members of the House and Senate. To date nothing has been done to clean up the widespread, blatant discrimination and reprisal.

Darlene is a lead Class Agent in the Region 5 Female Firefighter Class action complaint filed August 29, 2014.

Darlene has talked with news reporters and spoken on national radio stations regarding the civil rights violations against female firefighters.


Bio:        Jonel Wagoner lives in Springville, California.

Born in Flagstaff, AZ. Has lived in Springville, CA since 1996.

Employed by USDA – Forest Service, Sequoia National Forest, Region 5, California

Current Position: Forest Fire Training Officer

Jonel worked as a seasonal firefighter on a fire engine module for the US Forest Service from 1980 to 1986 on the Kaibab National Forest (Arizona). Things were pretty rough for a woman in fire, and she endured sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, and intimidation on a daily basis.

Even with a Bachelor of Science degree in natural resource management, her efforts to land a permanent job in fire management were futile. She watched as male co-workers gained permanent status and moved quickly up the ladder.

In order to secure a permanent position with the Forest Service, Jonel was forced to demote into a clerical position at the GS-2 level. Instead of doing the tasks she was qualified for like using a chainsaw, driving a split-axle fire engine and digging fire line, she had to learn how to type and file.

Early in 1989, as a Fuels Technician on the Lassen National Forest, male coworkers treated her with blatant disrespect, bullying and hostility. Her projects were sabotaged. When she spoke up about inappropriate sexual behavior between her crew boss and the female crewmembers she was retaliated against. Things got so bad that she left the fire organization and moved into a Recreation where the hostility from male employees and management continued, and at one point a male threatened to cut her throat. She feared for her safety and went back to work in Arizona as a GS-9 Planner.

Jonel finally obtained her dream job as an Assistant Dispatch Center Manager on the Sequoia National Forest, Region 5. In 2004 management involuntarily removed her from the position. They placed her in her current position as Forest Fire Training Officer where she is continually harassed and treated with disrespect from male firefighters and her supervisors. She is the union president.

On the Sequoia National Forest Jonel has been retaliated against for reporting incidents such as assaults on women, sexual harassment, employees bringing guns to work, murder threats, and firefighter drug use while driving government vehicles. She endures public humiliation, has been called profane names and was stripped of most of her duties in 2008. She has received multiple disciplinary actions based on false charges.

On two occasions Jonel traveled to Washington, D.C. She talked personally with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell about the discriminatory practices against female firefighters and others.

Jonel is a lead Class Agent in the Region 5 Female Firefighter Class action complaint filed August 29, 2014.

Jonel has been interviewed by reporters and spoken on national radio stations regarding the civil rights violations against female firefighters. She continues her fight to protect the civil rights of USDA employees


Bio:  Lesa Donnelly lives in Anderson, California. She is a California native.

She worked for USDA, Forest Service, in California (Region 5) in administrative and collateral fire positions from 1978 to 2002, retiring in 2002 under a settlement agreement.

Lesa currently works as a paralegal, representing Federal employees in civil rights matters and federal employment matters for twenty years. She and her brother, Robert Donnelly founded Donnelly and Donnelly Alternative Dispute Resolutions and have represented federal employees at USDA, USDOI, USPS, the VA, Homeland Security, and CAL Fire in EEOC and MSPB cases.

While working for the US Forest Service, Lesa filed a sex discrimination class action lawsuit in 1995 (Donnelly v. Glickman; Donnelly v. Veneman) on behalf of 6000 Forest Service women in California. The claims were sexual harassment, hostile work environment and reprisal. The federal court certified the class in 1996. Working with a team of attorneys, Lesa was part of the Settlement Negotiation Team. The Federal Court approved a Consent Decree in 2000 that provided injunctive relief and individual settlements to class members. The Federal Court appointed Lesa as a Monitor for oversight and implementation of the “Donnelly Settlement Agreement.” The Consent Decree ended in 2006.

Since 1998 Lesa has been Vice President of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees and the Women’s Issues advisor to Coalition Presidents Ron Cotton and Lawrence Lucas. The Coalition addresses civil rights issues that affect USDA and other Federal employees by working with agency officials, congress, the White House, other civil rights organizations, and the media. Since 1998 Lesa has worked on civil rights policy issues with the House and Senate, speaking personally with political officials such as Charles Grassley, Tom Harkin, Barbara Boxer, Elijah Cummings, Mike Honda, John Lewis, Ron Wyden, John Conyers, Grace Napolitano, and many more.

In 2008, Lesa testified before the House Committee on Government Reform on sexual harassment and workplace violence against federally employed women. She has been invited to the White House three times to discuss civil rights issues.

Lesa currently represents a class action complaint filed in August 2014, on behalf of USDA, Forest Service female firefighters in Region 5, California. There are seven class agents representing the north, central and southern forests of California.

Lesa has participated in civil rights panel discussions in conjunction with the NAAPC, The Coalition 4 Change, the Blacks in Government conference, and the National Whistleblowers conference, to name a few. She has had interviews published in the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Sacramento Bee, L.A. Times, USA Today, the Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio, and other national/local news, radio and TV media.