"I was given absolutely no work to do," Sweasy says.
She claims her boss was angry because her cost-savings plan exposed waste in his branch; he says she was repeatedly insubordinate. But Sweasy never imagined her "punishment" would be a do-nothing assignment with taxpayers forking out her paycheck.
"My gross salary was over a $100,000 a year," she says. "How can they continue to pay me," she wondered. "I'm not doing anything."
Rosemary Cummings was also a high level manager at NIH.
"I was going into work at 7 o'clock in the morning and staying until 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock. Weekends I'd be there," says Cummings.
That all came to a sudden halt when she, too, was transferred from her position, in which she was in charge of 130 people.
In her new position she was doing nothing, Cummings says, but still earning plenty: more than $100,000 a year on the taxpayers' dime.
Joyce Sweasy became depressed and desperate. She even offered to do the clerks' photocopying.
She took her case to an employment judge who said her boss was justified in transferring her but not to a do-nothing job with "less than three hours of work over two years." The judge called that illegal retaliation, and blamed her boss, the same man who gave Cummings nothing to do: a top NIH official, Leamon Lee.
The judge found Lee "has a history of taking reprisal action" against workers, but his career hasn't seemed to suffer.
Raynard Kington, NIH's number two official, won't talk about Lee, but insists managers like Lee are punished when they do wrong. As to how many employees complain they're in "do-nothing jobs," he says there's no epidemic.
"We know that there are allegations like this that get resolved," says Kington. "The important thing is it's resolved."
Sweasy won a $200,000 judgement against NIH for suffering the do-nothing job, but says the lost year decimated her career.
As for Cummings, she left her highly-paid position to begin a much busier early retirement.
As a taxpayer, Cummings says, "My thought is, what a waste."
It's a waste of time, talent and taxpayer dollars.