- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

A veteran broadcaster is suing the Voice of America, accusing the federal government’s broadcasting arm of rejecting qualified U.S. citizens in favor of hiring noncitizens.

VOA broadcaster Camille Grosdidier said the policy has cost her at least two promotions, according to a class-action lawsuit filed against VOA on Aug. 31.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington, came within days of an arbitrator decision against the VOA in a union dispute over the agency’s authority to hire noncitizens.

Miss Grosdidier says the agency twice hired aliens for positions for which she had applied and was qualified.

Last year, she was interviewed for a supervisory broadcaster’s job but lost out because of the hiring of a job candidate from the African nation of Chad, the lawsuit says.

Federal rules state that the agency can hire noncitizens for positions “when qualified United States citizens are not available,” according to court records in the case.

The VOA is supervised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency, and last year received $166 million in funding from the federal government. It reaches about 115 million people worldwide in 45 languages.

VOA officials said last week they were not aware of Miss Grosdidier’s lawsuit. But they defended the agency’s personnel practices and disputed accusations that officials were violating federal hiring rules.

“Our goal is to serve U.S. taxpayers in the best way possible by hiring the best qualified applicants for the job to reach our worldwide audience with reliable news and information,” VOA spokeswoman Tish King said.

If a judge grants the request for class-action status, more than 50 job applicants dating back six years ultimately could be named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said to Leslie D. Alderman, Miss Grosdidier’s attorney.

Mr. Alderman said his client works in the VOA’s French language African division, where she hosts and prepares news reports. But he said Miss Grosdidier was passed over after applying for promotions that would have entailed more supervisory editing duties.

“This is not anti-immigrant or anti-noncitizen complaint … but it’s about forcing the VOA to comply with the law,” Mr. Alderman said. “The agency has to hire U.S. citizens in the particular circumstances when a suitably qualified candidate is available.”

VOA also recently lost an arbitration ruling after the Local 1812 of the American Federation of Government Employees filed a grievance concerning VOA’s authority to hire noncitizens.

“We disagree with the conclusions of the arbitrator and will appeal,” Miss King said. “We abide by the long-standing guidelines for hiring noncitizens as established more than 20 years ago.”

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