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Former Labor Dept. Official Criticizes Nixon Administration

By Matt Kalish
Missouri School of Journalism
Less than a month after a former Department of Agriculture official resigned citing workplace hostility, a former Department of Labor official has filed a formal discrimination complaint that raised similar issues about a hostile workplace in Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration.
Gracia Backer served as the head of the Labor Department’s Division of Employment Security from 2009 until March, when she was fired 17 days after she had sent a letter to Commissioner of Administration Doug Nelson regarding her concerns about former Labor Department head Larry Rebman.
Backer said Rebman would interfere in lower level decisions and was critical of older women who worked in the department.
Previously, Backer had served as a Democratic member of the Missouri House from Callaway County. In 1996, she became the first woman in Missouri’s history elected as House majority leader.
Earlier in October, Agriculture Department head John Hagler left the post shortly after a former employee criticized his department for creating a hostile work environment.
“When I read it, it was almost like deja vu. Hostile working environment, retaliation, threats that you’re going to be fired if you do something wrong,” Backer said of the reports about Hagler’s Agriculture Department.
Calls to Nixon’s office for comment were not returned.