A Toastmaster’s Salute to A Civil Rights’ Whistleblower

  • “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • After reading her words in that early article, I knew Joyce was a queenly civil rights advocate and someone who undoubtedly made her ancestors proud.
  • “Give flowers to the living.”

The evening of July 2, 2019, I spoke before Toastmasters International members.  I delivered a specialty occasion speech from Toastmasters’ Advanced Communication Silver manual. I entitled my speech — “A Tribute to A Civil Rights Whistleblower.”  With a therapeutic gladness, I stood on the University Maryland University College (UMUC) campus in Largo, Maryland before the Power Speakers’ club.  I was so lifted!  For it gave me, a public servant who had suffered harm from federal workplace inequalities, an occasion to use the Toastmasters’ platform to salute a civil rights champion, Joyce E. Megginson.

A whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The information of alleged wrongdoing can be classified in many ways: violation of company policy/rules, law, regulation, or threat to public interest/national security, as well as fraud, and corruption. Whistleblowers, however, take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing.

Like celebrated activists, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King who laid treasured civil rights’ groundwork, Joyce E. Megginson believes in equality for all people.  She remains guided by Dr. Martin Luther King’s illuminating words — “The time is always right to do what is right.”
I met Joyce in the early ‘90s.  We both faced employment discrimination.  We both worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC only blocks from the nation’s monument.

Notably, I first learned of the self-less advocate in a Federal Times news article. The headline read: Commerce Employees Cite Bias and Reprisal.  The article caught Joyce in an action pose speaking with her chin unflinchingly lifted and her eyes firmly fixed skyward.  In the article, she talked about how she and Janet Howard, another self-less activist, led a class action lawsuit.  Their noble goal was to combat systemic discrimination within the Commerce Department.  Joyce spoke of how she planned to persevere through the David and Goliath fight for equality against the U.S Federal Government.   After reading her words in that early article, I knew Joyce was a queenly civil rights advocate and someone who undoubtedly made her ancestors proud.  Certainly, she was a person I wanted to know.

Fast forward.  Nearly a quarter of a century later, I proudly had the opportunity to pay tribute to Joyce E. Megginson.  In doing so,  I shared with my fellow UMUC Toastmasters how her 22-year employment battle secured a victory for federal employees and generations of federal employees to come.

Judiciously, in the case of Janet Howard and Joyce Megginson v Pritzker, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – often called the nation’s second-most-powerful court – rejected the U.S. Department of Commerce’s effort to limit workers’ rights to file discrimination cases. Essentially, the 3-judge DC Court of Appeals panel ruled against Commerce’s effort to restrict Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act) more lenient filing limits by imposing a six-year cap in employment discrimination cases.

As I near the end of this article, I will share the quote I echoed during my Toastmasters’ salute to Joyce. “Give flowers to the living.” When I was a youth, I heard my mother share the instructive message.  Therefore, when given the chance on July 2, 2019, days before the Independence Day holiday, I seized the moment.  I gave Joyce E. Megginson, a civil rights champion, her much deserved “bouquet of thanks.

During the 8th Annual Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival, which will be held from July 29th thru August 1st, Joyce E. Megginson will moderate a Coalition For Change Inc. (C4C) panel discussion. The panel will cover how the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fails to hold federal agencies accountable for workplace discrimination since the passage of the  Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act).

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Tanya Ward Jordan

 Tanya Ward Jordan is President and Founder of The Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C), a  civil rights organization challenging racism and reprisal in the federal workplace.   She received an award from Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner for her input into the "Notification and Federal Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002” and Congressional acclaim from Representative Elijah Cummings for her invaluable input on a bill, known as Federal Employee Anti-discrimination Act of 2017.

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