US Embassy Kyiv Now on Evacuation Status: Voluntary For USG Staff, Mandatory For Family Members

 

On Saturday, January 22, CNN reported that US Embassy Kyiv requested that the State Department authorize the departure of all nonessential staff  and their families, citing “multiple sources familiar with the matter.” Note that “non-emergency” staff is the preferred term, actually.
CNN also reported in early December that the US was working on contingency planning to evacuate Americans from Ukraine, as Russia has continued to mass troops near the border and spark fears of a renewed invasion.
A side note here, this contingency planning is not unique to Ukraine, of course. See here:

Every Foreign Service post is required to have an operative Emergency Action Plan (EAP) with procedures in place to respond to emergencies such as natural disaster, civil unrest, a pandemic or mass casualties. The post EAP is a living document, updated on a continuous basis, and comprehensively reviewed once a year. Diplomatic missions are also required to run mock emergency training drills (usually, an intense two day session every two years) to test their capabilities and the relevance of their EAPs.

On Sunday, January 23, 2022, the State Department issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory for Ukraine “due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19.”
The Travel Advisory also announced that the Department authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct hire employees (USDH) and ordered the departure of eligible family members (EFM) from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action.
Additionally, the advisory urged U.S. citizens in Ukraine to “consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.”
The State Department has called the developments in Ukraine a crisis and has set up phone lines dedicated to Ukraine-related calls:”
For Ukraine related calls,  please dial 1-833-741-2777 (toll free U.S. and Canada) or +1-606-260-4379 (overseas).
All other calls,  please dial 1-888-407-4747 (toll free U.S. and Canada) or +1-202-501-4444 (overseas).
On Monday, January 24, the US Embassy Kyiv issued a statement announcing the Authorized Departure of U.S. Government Employees and Ordered Departure for Eligible Family Members.
On January 24, the U.S. Department of State authorized the voluntary departure (“authorized departure”) of U.S. government employees and ordered the departure of family members (“ordered departure”) of U.S. government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, effective immediately.
Authorized departure gives these employees the option to depart if they wish; their departure is not required. Ordered departure for family members requires that family members leave the country. The U.S. Embassy’s departure status will be reviewed in no later than 30 days.
The Department of State made the decision to authorize departure from Mission Ukraine out of an abundance of caution due to continued Russian efforts to destabilize the country and undermine the security of Ukrainian citizens and others visiting or residing in Ukraine. We have been in consultation with the Ukrainian government about this step and are coordinating with Allied and partner embassies in Kyiv as they determine their posture.
Additionally, the State Department has elevated our previous Travel Advisory for Ukraine to Level Four – Do Not Travel due to the increased threats of significant Russian military action against Ukraine. The Travel Advisory was already at Level Four – Do Not Travel due to COVID-19.
[…]
With respect to U.S. citizens in Ukraine, our primary role is to keep the U.S. citizen community informed of safety and security developments, which could include information on commercial travel options.
[…]
Our Embassy in Kyiv is prepared to meet an immediate uptick in demand for consular services. Over the last several months, the Embassy has prioritized the processing of U.S. passports and immigrant visas, including adoption cases. As always, we will prioritize support for U.S. citizens in emergency situations and are working to ensure our continued capacity to do so.
Read in full here.
No nominee has been announced for the US Ambassadorship in Kyiv as of this writing.  The most recent Senate confirmed ambassador was Marie Yovanovitch who was recalled in May 20, 2019 after a vicious smear campaign by Trump allies.
Embassy Kyiv is currently headed by Kristina Kvien as Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.. She was previously appointed CDA from May-June 2019. CDA Kvien’s deputy is Alan Purcell who became Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine in May 2021. He previously served in Ukraine as Political Counselor.

 

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USCG Almaty on Voluntary Departure For Non-Emergency USG Staff/Family Members

 

On Friday, January 7, 2022, the State Department issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory for Kazakhstan due to COVID-19 and civil unrest. It also announced that the Department approved the voluntary departure of Consulate General Almaty non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of all Consulate General Almaty U.S. government employees.
On Saturday, January 8, US Mission Kazakhstan issued a Security Alert for U.S. citizens in the country announcing the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency USG staff and family members at the Consulate General in Almaty. The Alert also advised U.S. citizens in country to shelter in place if a safe departure is not possible:

The U.S. government has authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members at the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty.  

U.S. citizens in Almaty are advised to shelter in place until safe departure is possible.  Avoid standing next to balconies or windows and stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.  Further, all U.S. citizens in Kazakhstan are advised to avoid crowds or demonstrations.

A nationwide state of emergency and curfew is in place between the hours of 11pm and 7am and will remain in effect until January 19.  Expect security checkpoints controlling access to population centers, public transport disruptions, and limitations on movement throughout the country.  Overland border crossing to neighboring countries may not be possible or safe at this time, and access to fuel may be limited.

Unrest in Almaty continues, and there were reports of gunfire overnight and ongoing direct conflict between armed groups and Kazakhstani government forces. Widespread flight and train disruptions continue, and there are cancellations on both domestic and international routes.  Almaty airport and railway stations are currently closed.  You are advised to check with your airline to confirm your flight and reminded to avoid travel during curfew hours.

Communications services countrywide have been limited and internet restrictions continue.  However, the government of Kazakhstan reports that access to limited news outlets has been restored.  Disruptions to internet access may continue to impact other services such as banking, credit card transactions, and COVID-19 testing.  Coordinate with your medical provider to determine testing availability.

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Snapshot: Former FS Spouses’ Statutory Entitlements

 

Via GTM/RNET: Former Spouses’ Statutory Entitlements
Former spouses have a default entitlement to a pro rata marital share of the annuity, survivor annuity and health benefits coverage if the following conditions have been met:
    • Former spouse must have been married to annuitant for at least 10 years of the employee’s creditable service (civilian or military), with 5 of these years occurring while the employee was in  the Foreign Service; and
    • Have been divorced from employee after February 15, 1981, and
    • Have not remarried prior to age 55 or expressly waived spousal benefits under the Foreign Service Act of 1980.
A qualified court order or a valid spousal agreement will take precedence over the above-noted provisions.
Qualified Court Order Or Valid Spousal Agreement
A court order or spousal agreement that alters or waives the statutory entitlement payable under the Foreign Service Act to a former spouse must do so expressly.  To expressly alter or waive a Former Spouse’s statutory entitlement to benefits, the court order spousal or agreement must specifically refer to Foreign Service retirement.  For example, the parties may specify that the relevant language in the court order or agreement pertains to pension, survivor or refunds under the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System if the annuitant is a FSRDS participant, or under the Foreign Service Pension System if the annuitant is a FSPS participant.
For more information, please contact the Chief Policy Advisor at: HRSC@state.gov.

 

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US Embassy Sudan On Voluntary Evacuation as of 10/27, New Travel Advisory Out on 11/8 (?)

 

On October 25, the US Embassy in Sudan issued a Security Alert (see US Embassy Khartoum Issues Security Alert Following Coup in Sudan).We missed that post issued a Security Alert two days later announcing the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency personnel and family members Security Alert: Authorized Departure of Non-Emergency U.S. Government Employees and Family Members from U.S. Embassy Khartoum (27 October, 2021).
On November 6, Embassy Khartoum issued another Security Message noting sporadic protests, and advising U.S. citizens to shelter in place.

Sporadic and decentralized protests continued on November 5 and 6. Large protests are reportedly planned for November 7 and possibly November 8. While organizers of the protests signal their intent to continue to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, there have been violent confrontations in the past. American citizens are advised to shelter in place to the extent possible.

Movement in and around Khartoum has improved and all bridges are reported open. Military checkpoints remain in place and protesters continue to form their own roadblocks in and around Khartoum. Telephone networks are functional at the time of posting. Most internet networks remain non-functional.

Should you elect to stay in Sudan and shelter in place, please consider not just security issues, but also the long-term sustainability of your living situation. Factors to consider may be the availability of food in the markets, fuel in gas stations, bank closures, pharmacy closures, the reliability of water and electricity sources, communications barriers, land border accessibility, port closures, and dependably available air travel.

Previous Security Alerts advised U.S. citizens to “Please develop departure plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.”
On November 8, the State Department issued a Level 4-Do Not Travel Advisory for Sudan.  The Advisory announced the October 27 authorization for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees due to civil unrest and possible supply shortages.
Did post go on “authorized departure” on October 27 but State did not issue a new Travel Advisory announcing that development until November 8?

US Embassy Ethiopia Now on Mandatory Evacuation For Non-Emergency USG Staff and Family Members

 

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa went on “authorized departure” on November 3. Two days later, the embassy went on mandatory evacuation for non-emergency personnel and family members.  (US Embassy Ethiopia Now Under “Authorized Departure” Order #voluntaryevac). The State Department has now urged U.S. citizens in the country to depart while commercial air is available as well as announced that the embassy is “unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable.”

Event: On November 5, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages.

The Department of State urges U.S citizens in Ethiopia to depart now using commercially available options. The U.S. Embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable. Although seats on commercial flights currently remain available, we cannot predict when demand will exceed capacity.

Travel to Ethiopia is unsafe due to the ongoing armed conflict. Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning. The situation may escalate further and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions. The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on November 2, 2021.

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US Embassy Ethiopia Now Under “Authorized Departure” Order #voluntaryevac

 

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa just issued a Security Alert announcing the State Department’s authorized voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages. A Level 4 Do Not Travel to Ethiopia Advisory dated November 3, 2021 was also issued urging U.S. citizens in Ethiopia to “consider departing now using commercial options.”

On November 3, the Department authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages.

U.S. citizens in Ethiopia should consider departing now using commercial options. Those planning to remain should ensure they have sufficient provisions stocked in case they need to shelter in place.

Travel to Ethiopia is unsafe at this time due to the ongoing armed conflict.  Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence may occur without warning.

Further escalation is likely, and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts and travel disruptions.  The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on November 2, 2021.

The Government of Ethiopia has previously restricted or shut down internet, cellular data, and phone services during and after civil unrest. These restrictions impede the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with, and provide consular services to, U.S. citizens in Ethiopia.

The U.S. Embassy has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Addis Ababa. U.S. Embassy personnel are currently restricted from traveling outside of Addis Ababa city limits.

Actions to Take:

    • Have a personal emergency action plan that does not rely on U.S. government assistance.
    • Take advantage of commercial transportation options, if you wish to depart Ethiopia.
    • Monitor local media for breaking news on such events;
    • Avoid large crowds and demonstrations;
    • Be aware of your surroundings;
    • Keep a low profile.
Read in full here.
The US Embassy in Addis is headed by a career diplomat, Ambassador Geeta Pasi.  Immediately prior to her appointment, Ambassador Pasi was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, beginning in 2018.  She previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Chad (2016-2018) and Djibouti (2011-2014).
Ambassador Pasi’s DCM is Fiona Scholand Evans who assumed her duties as Deputy Chief of Mission in Addis Ababa in August 2021.  Ms. Evans has served overseas in Peru, Tajikistan, Kosovo, Iceland, Kenya, and twice in Germany.  In Washington, D.C., Ms. Evans was Transportation Officer and Deputy Director of the Aviation Negotiations Office at the State Department.

CA Appointment Eligible Family Members Subject to Suitability Review Determination

 

The State Department made an administrative change to 3 FAM 8210 to add supplementary guidance on the Suitability and Security Clearance Determinations process in 3 FAM 8215.1. It now includes suitability determination requirement for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) working for Consular Affairs.
3 FAM 8215  Suitability and Security Clearance Determinations
3 FAM 8215.1  Suitability Determination
(CT:PER-1063;   09-14-2021)
(State Only)
(Applies to Appointment Eligible Family Members Only)

a. In all cases, individuals to be appointed under a family member appointment will be subject to appropriate investigation to determine suitability for employment.
b. Except as noted in c. below, in the event that information is developed that raises a question of suitability for employment, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) will refer the case to the Personnel Review Panel (as established under 3 FAM 2150), which will make a suitability determination as to whether an individual may be appointed under a family member appointment.
c.  In all cases, individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program will be subject to a suitability determination by a Suitability Review Panel (SRP), as stipulated in 3 FAM 2215.1a.

3 FAM 2215.1  Suitability Review Panel
(CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(State Only)
(Applies to all Foreign Service applicants)

a. A Suitability Review Panel (SRP) makes suitability determinations for appointment of career candidates in the Foreign Service, for the reappointment of a career member to the Foreign Service, for the recall of a career member to the Foreign Service (except in cases where the recalled individual is also the subject of a Presidential or other political appointment), for Civil Service candidates converting to the Foreign Service and for limited non-career appointments to the Foreign Service.  A Suitability Review Panel does not make determinations for family member appointments, except for individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program.  A Suitability Review Panel will also review the candidacies of any current Foreign Service employee converting to another skill code if derogatory information arises prior to the candidate’s conversion.  Except as provided below, candidates, except those applying for a position with Diplomatic Security (DS), who have been found suitable for appointment by a SRP within the previous two years do not require a new suitability review.

b. After the medical examination clearance has been issued, and the background investigation, which is not more than three years old, is received, a candidate’s entire file (except the medical records) is reviewed and evaluated by a SRP to determine the candidate’s suitability for the Foreign Service under the standards set forth in 3 FAM 2215.  DS will re-submit applicants to the qualifications panel (3 FAM 2216.2-3) if they are found to have falsified information on their application or are found to have other disqualifying factors.

c.  Suitability Review Panels for the Department of State must consist of two or more assessors from the Board of Examiners, or, in the case of Diplomatic Security or Medical Specialist candidates, one of the assessors may be a subject matter expert appointed to the Suitability Review Panel (SRP) by the Director of GTM/TAC/BEX.  In the case of a candidate for appointment to the Senior Foreign Service, the SRP must consist of at least three Assessors who are career Senior Foreign Service Officers (FSO).  The majority of the officers on the Senior Foreign Service Officer SRP, including the panel chairperson, must be career Senior FSOs.

d. Candidates found suitable for appointment will have their names forwarded to the Office of the Registrar in the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM/TAC/REG).  Prior to appointment in the Foreign Service, the Department of State may, at its discretion, elect to review once again the candidate’s suitability for employment should information become available that the Suitability Review Panel had not previously had access to that raises questions about the Suitability Review Panel’s original suitability determination.

e. The candidacy of any candidate who is not found suitable for appointment by a Suitability Review Panel will be terminated and the candidate will be informed of the termination and the right to appeal in writing.  An unfavorable suitability determination for a Foreign Service candidacy, other than a candidacy for a Diplomatic Security position based solely on reasons found in 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15), terminates other pending Foreign Service candidacies.  An unfavorable suitability determination for a Diplomatic Security candidacy solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15) may not necessarily terminate other pending, non-DS Foreign Service candidacies.

f.  Candidates, other than candidates for Diplomatic Security positions whose candidacy was terminated solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15), not found suitable for appointment by a Suitability Review Panel are ineligible to apply for Foreign Service positions for a period of two years from the date of the unfavorable suitability determination.  Candidates for Diplomatic Security positions whose candidacy was terminated solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15) will remain eligible to apply for non-Diplomatic Security positions.

3 FAM 2215.2  Suitability Standards for Appointment to the Foreign Service
3 FAM 2215.2-1  Applicability
(CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(State/USAID)
(Applies to all Foreign Service Applicants)

This section applies to all applicants for employment in the Foreign Service.  This section does not apply to family member appointments, except for individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program.  Standards of conduct for continued employment in the Foreign Service are found in 3 FAM 4130.

Read more: 3 FAM 2210 Appointments (CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(Office of Origin:  GTM/TAC)

DOJ: Jury Convicts Foreign Service Officer and Former Spouse for Obtaining U.S. Citizenship by Fraud

 

Via USDOJ/September 13, 2021
Jury Convicts Foreign Service Officer and Former Spouse for Obtaining U.S. Citizenship by Fraud
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal jury convicted a California woman and Russian-born man on Friday on charges of conspiracy and obtaining U.S. citizenship by fraud.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Laura Gallagher, 32, a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, and Andrey Kalugin, 36, originally of Russia, conspired together to obtain lawful permanent residence and U.S. citizenship for Kalugin through his marriage to Gallagher. 
“The jury’s verdict holds these two defendants accountable for orchestrating a scheme to defraud the United States and obtain unlawful citizenship and passports,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Gallagher disregarded her responsibilities to the public as a federal government employee and licensed attorney when she engaged in this fraudulent scheme with Kalugin. Thanks to the dedication of the trial team and our partners at the State Department, these defendants have been brought to justice.”
Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that the defendants met in law school in 2013. Kalugin was in the United States on a student visa that was due to expire in July 2015. The defendants married in June 2015 and submitted applications for Kalugin to obtain his “green card.” The defendants moved from California to Virginia in March 2016, but split up soon thereafter. However, they continued with the immigration process.
“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate allegations of crime related to naturalization fraud and to bring those who commit these crimes to justice,” said Jessica Moore, Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. “When a Department employee in a position of trust is alleged to have committed a federal felony involving naturalization fraud by exploiting their status, we vigorously investigate claims of corruption.” 
Gallagher, who is also a California-licensed attorney, then prepared for Kalugin an application for 319(b) expeditious naturalization, which is a benefit available to spouses of citizens who are regularly stationed abroad for their employment. The defendants provided materially false responses in the application, including that Kalugin was still in a good-faith marriage and intended to reside with Gallagher abroad and return with her to the United States. Kalugin appeared for an interview on Feb. 5, 2018 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Fairfax, where he repeated the false statements to the adjudicating officer. After USCIS approved the application and he received his citizenship, Kalugin fraudulently obtained U.S. Diplomatic and tourist passports. Shortly thereafter, Gallagher filed for divorce.
Gallagher and Kalugin each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when sentenced on Feb. 4, 2022. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Kalugin additionally faces mandatory revocation of his U.S. citizenship. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Jessica Moore, Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis, III accepted the verdict.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Raizza K. Ty and Morris R. Parker, Jr. are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:21-cr-43.

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Biliovschi Smith v. Blinken: EFM Alleges Discrimination Under Title VII #superiorqualificationsrate

 

Via Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-03065 (CJN)
For over two years, Mihaela Biliovschi Smith worked for the State Department as a Media Outreach Assistant out of the American embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1. A series of disputes among Ms. Smith, a coworker, and embassy management resulted in Ms. Smith filing this lawsuit, which alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 55–60. The State Department has moved to dismiss, or alternatively, for summary judgment. See generally Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss & for Summ. J. (“Mot.”), ECF No. 28. The Court denies the motion for reasons that follow.1
1 In addition to denying the State Department’s motion for summary judgment, this Court also denies the State Department’s alternative motion to dismiss. Tyson v. Brennan, 306 F. Supp. 3d 365, 369 (D.D.C. 2017); Brooks v. Kerry, 37 F. Supp. 3d 187, 199 (D.D.C. 2014). For clarity’s sake, this memorandum opinion will refer to the State Department’s motion as a motion for summary judgment.
4 If a job candidate qualifies for higher pay based on a “superior qualifications determination,” Joint Statement ¶ 16, then the person could receive a superior qualification rate of pay, which compensates the individual because the employer based on the individual’s experience “may reasonably expect a higher level of performance beyond the requirements of the job,” id. ¶ 35.
5 This Court concludes that embassy management’s comments about Ms. Smith’s Romanian ethnicity do not constitute direct evidence of discrimination, but rather may “be probative of discrimination” under the burden-shifting framework in place for claims reliant on indirect evidence of discrimination. Isse v. Am. Univ., 540 F. Supp. 2d 9, 30 (D.D.C. 2008); Brady v. Livingood, 456 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2006) (noting that “direct evidence does not include stray remarks in the workplace”). In addition, Ms. Smith’s contention that she received lower pay based in part on her national origin satisfies the requirement that a Title VII discrimination plaintiff show that she suffered an adverse employment action. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (making it unlawful to discriminate with respect to “compensation”); Russell v. Principi, 257 F.3d 815, 819 (D.C. Cir. 2001).

I. Background
An American citizen of Romanian national origin, Mihaela Biliovschi Smith accompanied her husband Derrin Ray Smith to Yaoundé, Cameroon in August 2014.2 See Joint Chronological.

Statement of Material Facts (“Joint Statement”), ECF No. 38 at ¶¶ 1–3. Mr. Smith ventured to Africa to work as a foreign service officer with the U.S. embassy. Id. ¶ 3. During their first year in Cameroon together, Mr. and Ms. Smith attended an embassy-hosted dinner where the deputy chief of the embassy, Greg Thome, allegedly told Ms. Smith at the dinner table that her “country right now is the United States of America” and that “at the State Department, we don’t work for the interests of the Romanians.” Id. ¶ 5. Thome, Ms. Smith also claims, later inquired into whether she “spoke Russian.” Id. ¶ 13. Ms. Smith perceived Thome’s comments related to her Romanian ethnicity as odd, discomforting, and concerning. Derrin Ray Smith Decl. (“Smith Decl.”), ECF No. 31-8 at 2. Yet neither Ms. Smith nor her husband apparently took action in response.

Early in 2015, Ms. Smith applied for a position with the embassy as a “Media Outreach Assistant.” See Joint Statement ¶¶ 6, 10.3 She got the job. Id. ¶ 14. The job offer stated that Ms. Smith would begin her employment with the embassy at an entry-level pay rate. Id. ¶ 15. Upon receipt of the offer, Ms. Smith requested that the State Department conduct a superior qualifications rate review to determine whether she qualified for higher pay. Id. ¶¶ 16, 20. 4 The assistant in the human resources department in charge of preparing Ms. Smith’s hiring documents thought that Ms. Smith might qualify for a higher rate based on her “expansive knowledge” and experiential background. Id. ¶ 38.

Yet a higher-level manager in the human resources department, Charles Morrill, made the decision not to submit Ms. Smith’s paperwork for a superior qualifications review, id. ¶ 44, and when he informed her of that decision, he referenced her Romanian perspective and Balkanized mindset. Id. ¶ 51. When asked in his deposition to clarify these comments, Morrill stated that he knew the “mindset” of Romanians based on his experience working with “Eastern Europeans.” Charles Morrill Dep. (“Morrill’s Dep.”), ECF No. 28-9 at 4–5. He added that people from that part of the world hold a world view that “people are out to get you.” Id. at 5. The decision not to submit the paperwork generated conflict between Ms. Smith and embassy management. Ms. Smith nonetheless accepted the offer of employment.
[…]
In December 2018, Ms. Smith filed this lawsuit against her employer for discrimination and for creating a retaliatory and a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 55–60. The State Department has moved to for summary judgment on all of Ms. Smith’s claims.
[…]
Because a reasonable juror could find, based on the present record, that Ms. Smith suffered discrimination on the basis of national origin and that she was subjected to a hostile work environment on the basis of her sex and her engagement in protected activity, it would be inappropriate to grant the pending Motion for Summary Judgment. The State Department’s Motion for Summary Judgment is therefore Denied. An Order will be entered contemporaneously with this Memorandum Opinion.

The Memorandum of Opinion signed by Judge Carl J. Nichols of the District Court of the District of Columbia is available via public records here.

 

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US Mission Russia Now on “Authorized Departure” For USG Family Members

 

On August 5, 2021, the State Department announced that it has allowed the voluntary departure of U.S. government family members at US Mission Russia. Since this was an “authorized departure” order, FS family members will have the option to leave post if they want to, or remain at post.
Excerpt from the most recent Level4/Do Not Travel Advisory for the Russian Federation:

Do not travel to Russia due to terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law. Reconsider travel due to COVID-19 and related entry restrictions.

Do Not Travel to:
The North Caucasus, including Chechnya and Mount Elbrus, due to terrorism, kidnapping, and risk of civil unrest.
Crimea due to Russia’s purported occupation of the Ukrainian territory and abuses by its occupying authorities.

On August 5, 2021, the Department allowed for the voluntary departure of U.S. government family members.

Country Summary: U.S. citizens, including former and current U.S. government and military personnel and private citizens engaged in business, who are visiting or residing in Russia have been interrogated without cause, and threatened by Russian officials and may become victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion. All U.S. government personnel should carefully consider their need to travel to Russia.
Russian security services have arrested U.S. citizens on spurious charges, denied them fair and transparent treatment, and have convicted them in secret trials and/or without presenting evidence.  Russian officials may unreasonably delay U.S. consular assistance to detained U.S. citizens.  Russian authorities arbitrarily enforce local laws against U.S. citizen religious workers and open questionable criminal investigations against U.S. citizens engaged in religious activity. Russian security services are increasingly arbitrarily enforcing local laws targeting foreign and international organizations they consider “undesirable,” and U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Russia to perform work for or volunteer with non-governmental organizations.

Russia enforces special restrictions on dual U.S.-Russian nationals and may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship, including denying access to U.S. consular assistance and preventing their departure from Russia.

The rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are not guaranteed in Russia, and U.S. citizens should avoid all political or social protests.

Read more here.

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