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Fired HR personnel chief restored to post with pay and leave restored

DHR director Lynn Pulou- Alaimalo
Director Pulou- Alaimalo says bullying of staff is not tolerated

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In an Apr. 12th decision, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Marie A. Alailima reversed the firing of the 17-year career service employee — Irene Uhrle-Annipale — at the Department of Human Resources, whose director Lynn Pulou- Alaimalo, terminated her last month.

Annipale, who was chief of personnel, was served with a letter of termination on Mar. 11th by Pulou-Alaimalo, who claimed that — among other things — the employee showed up late for work too often.

According to the director, the department conducted a thorough investigation into matters concerning staff. “Information gathered from those affected by your actions warrants immediate remedy on my part as a director,” Pulou-Alaimalo wrote to Annipale,

“Behavior that has been perceived by staff as bullying is not tolerated and requires action to be taken to prevent this from continuing,” she said and referenced local law regarding such behavior.

Based on the termination letter, Annipale was stripped of her duties and responsibilities the first week that Pulou-Alaimalo was appointed acting director of DHR. Annipale was also stripped of the management of staff in the Personnel Division.

Pulou-Alaimalo said in the termination letter that as acting director at the time, it was in the best interest of the department to take such action.

“Attempts to undermine management decisions and failing to work the required hours stipulated to your employment agreement with ASG are serious concerns,” the DHR director tells Annipale, who was informed that termination of employment is effective Apr. 11th at 4p.m.

And that Annipale has the right to appeal the decision to the ALJ within 10-days of receiving the termination letter.

Annipale filed a timely dispute with the ALJ against ASG/ DHR, which was represented by Assistant Attorney General Julia M. Furlong, during a hearing on Apr. 5th. Annipale represented herself at the hearing.

The ALJ reviewed certified records, applicable law, and the parties’ arguments and the tribunal found that procedures and actions undertaken by the DHR director, “were outside the range of discretion delegated to her or the Human Resources Department, inconsistent with an agency rule of procedure, and violated statutory provisions,” according to the ALJ’s ruling.

Furthermore the certified record — presented to the tribunal — “lacks substantial evidence to support the termination of petitioner’s employment when the record is viewed as a whole,” the ALJ wrote and points to local law A.S.C.A 4.0603.

Therefore the ALJ ordered that the DHR director’s Mar. 11th decision terminating petitioner’s career service employment “is reversed” and the petitioner shall be restored her previous position from which she had been terminated.

Furthermore, ASG/ DHR shall restore unto the petitioner any and all back-pay and leave to which she would have been entitled had the Mar. 11th letter terminating her employment not been issued.