ORLANDO, Fla. — One year after the death of a TSA worker at Orlando International Airport that some coworkers and loved ones said was caused by bullying and intimidation, employees are still waiting to see significant change.
- Robert Henry jumped off balcony at airport in February 2019
- His suicide note alleged being bullied by TSA management
- TSA Union Rep: Stress From Shutdown Played a Role in Orlando Airport Suicide
- Watchdog: Orlando TSA Workers Tell Soto Culture is "Toxic"
- Former Colleague of TSA Agent in Airport Suicide Considered Him a Son
- Family of Orlando TSA Worker Who Took Own Life Unhappy with Results of Agency Probe
- Watchdog: TSA Probe Into Orlando TSA Worker's Death Finds No Evidence of Bullying
- Federal Union Wants Congress to Ask TSA Chief About Orlando Bullying Reports
- Ex-Orlando TSA Worker's Mom: TSA Probe Denied Fault in My Son's Death
Robert Henry took his life by jumping off a hotel balcony on February 2, 2019. Before he jumped, Henry wrote a suicide letter to select people, expressing how he was allegedly being targeted by TSA management at Orlando International Airport.
According to one of his former AFGE union presidents, he says he documented bullying and retaliation toward Henry for years.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto says he has also seen enough proof to know something was not right.
Pablo Alvarado Jr. worked for the Transportation Security Administration for about 13 years. He served as the union president from 2009 to 2015. It was during his first year as acting AFGE president that Henry transferred to Orlando International Airport from Washington's Dulles International Airport.
"Robert Henry was an average TSO in my opinion," Alvarado said. "He was a good worker, he was a quiet guy, he kept to himself, and a lot of people didn't understand him."
Around 2011, Alvarado, as his union's president, started to notice a pattern with Henry.
"He was written up for using his phone while on duty, he was written up for tardiness, he was written up for taking too much time off for medical appointments, and he was written up for unkept hygiene and physical appearance," Alvarado said.
Those were violations that Alvarado thinks were minor and saw others get written up for without the same consequences as Henry.
"(For) the average person, it would have just been a slap on the wrist," Alvarado said. "For him, it was trying to threaten him with getting rid of him or without any cause."
In an interview with Spectrum News 13, Soto questioned the findings of a TSA investigation into the death of one of its own employees that found no proof of bullying or retaliation toward Henry.
"Obviously, I disagree with it," Soto said. "It was one of several factors."
Felicita Alicea, who witnessed Henry jump to his death, also disagrees with the TSA's conclusion.
"Everybody was pissed with the outcome," Alicea said. "Some of us weren't really surprised, because we all had said that was going to be the finding."
Despite the report's conclusion, Soto says TSA's actions afterward indicate officials were aware of workplace problems at the Orlando airport.
"Even though they said there are no issues in regards to bullying, we did see a change in the leadership here at the TSA in Orlando," Soto said. "That does show that they were responding, even if they put out this report, that they were really overlooking some of the issues that were happening there."
The leadership change Soto refers to is the replacement of the facility's TSA Federal Security Director Jerry Henderson with an interim FSD.
Spectrum News 13 requested an interview to discuss the leadership change, but TSA did not comment or respond.
But former TSA worker and union president Alvarado, for his part, said then-director Henderson was aware of the culture of bullying and retaliation at OIA.
"My nickname for Jerry Henderson was 'The Ostrich,' because he would stick his head in the ground and leave his rear end sticking out," Alvarado said. "I always warned him about that, and it would bite him."
Currently, Orlando International Airport still does not have a full-time federal security director. Pete Garcia has been filling in on an interim basis since April of last year as TSA continues its search for a new, full-time director.
In a recent survey conducted by BestPlacesToWork.org, which ranks the top places to work in the federal government, out of 420 branches and offices to work, TSA finished 2019 ranked 398th.