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Ex-Energy Department Scientist Privacy Suit Revived in Part (1)

August 1, 2022

Bloomberg Law
By Annelise Gilbert

A former Department of Energy scientist who resigned after an alleged affair with an intern will be able to pursue some of his claims against his former employer in federal court, the Third Circuit ruled Tuesday.

Ayyakkannu Manivannan was a DOE scientist from 2005 until he resigned in 2016 following notice that the DOE had begun the process to fire him due to misconduct. The DOE launched an internal investigation into Manivannan in 2015 after a former student intern alleged a sexual relationship with him and accused him of inappropriate and abusive behavior.

The investigation resulted in a “quite unfavorable” report, which the DOE provided to Pennsylvania prosecutors who charged him with harassment and unlawful use of a computer. His convictions were vacated on appeal and prosecutors declined to pursue the case further.

Manivannan filed a series of lawsuits following his resignation, alleging the agency violated the Privacy Act and Federal Tort Claims Act throughout its investigation by colluding with Pennsylvania prosecutors and withholding his personal belongings, among other allegations. Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly, in the court below, dismissed the case, holding that because they arose out of his federal employment they had to be adjudicated through the process set out in the Civil Service Reform Act.

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