In the federal workplace, sexual harassment complaints are widespread, especially after the #MeToo movement. Have you been affected?
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recently released a report scrutinizing sexual harassment claims filed against federal agencies between fiscal years 2015 and 2018. It found that people filed such complaints at a rate of 1.5 claims per day. Women made up at least 80% of the accusers.
“Congress should allocate additional funds to enable EEOC to help agencies proactively identify and prevent sexual harassment,” wrote the commission’s chair in a letter to President Trump.
The agency with the largest number of sexual harassment complaints against it is the Social Security Administration, which received 518 such complaints in 2016, according to the report. The report details the allegations against two other agencies — NASA and the State Department — as case studies.
Although NASA received 180 complaints in 2016 and the State Department only 52 that year, both agencies have histories of gender discrimination, according to the Courthouse News Service. For example, NASA long excluded women based on gender stereotypes, and the State Department used to prohibit married women from taking overseas assignments.
The Justice Department was also criticized for its handling of a sexual misconduct case.
“My supervisor stalked me for over a year and it was a terrifying and life-altering experience,” said a senior Justice Department litigator. She went on to say that the man was never suspended or demoted, much less exposed to law enforcement involvement. In fact, the behavior was never even entered into his personnel file. Instead, the Justice Department merely transferred him to another office.
Transferring alleged offenders to new offices without mentioning the allegations has been described as “passing the trash.”
Congress has a major sexual harassment problem, too
The report also covers sexual harassment complaints against members of Congress. In one situation, a complainant was required to work with the person who allegedly harassed her for a thirty-day “cooling off period.”
“The problem runs deep,” reads the report. “In March 2019, based on a Congressional inquiry, the Inspector General of the Architect of the Capitol published a report detailing 57 incidents of sexual harassment over the past ten years, including allegations that Members of Congress had harassed custodial staff, who did not report these incidents due to fear of losing their jobs.”
Have you experienced sexual harassment in your federal job?
This report indicates that sexual harassment is prevalent in the federal work force and that complaints have been growing since the #MeToo movement surged in popularity.
If you have suffered from sexual or other harassment in a federal civil service job, you have rights. Before you file an official complaint, however, consider talking to an employment law attorney. Your lawyer can help you present your complaint in a compelling fashion so that the agency can’t ignore it. A lawyer can also help you strategize to minimize the chance of retaliation after you make your complaint.