(font in blue, lifted from the report)
“OIG could not assess the timeliness of sexual harassment cases because the offices did not have timeliness standards. Additionally, lack of reliable and comprehensive data hampers the Department’s ability to effectively oversee and administer efforts to address sexual harassment.”
OCR, OSI, and CSD have individual systems to track and monitor sexual harassment cases, but the systems do not track similar data or share data with each other. For example, each office uses different identification numbers for the cases and different names for the subject’s bureau, office, or post. Additionally, OCR and CSD use different definitions when tracking sexual harassment cases. […] the three systems do not share data among each other and the other offices relevant to the disciplinary process. OCR, OSI, and CSD officials stated that only staff of the individual offices have access to the office’s data system and that the offices do not grant access to each other.
Because the offices lack a mechanism for tracking sexual harassment cases from intake until the final disciplinary action, OIG was not able to determine the length and disciplinary outcomes of all sexual harassment and sexual assault reports to OCR and OSI from 2014 to 2017.
Of the 636 complaints of sexual harassment that OCR received from 2014 to 2017, OCR investigated 142 (22 percent) as possible violations of Department policy.
CA, DS, Embassy Kabul, Chennai Consulate, and the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations represented the five bureaus and posts with the highest number of investigations.
Of the 106 complaints received during the relevant time period, 16 were still under investigation; of the 90 investigations OSI had completed, 24 cases (27 percent) had some kind of substantiated misconduct. […] However, this does not mean that 24 cases of sexual assault were confirmed; rather, it means that during the investigation, OSI concluded that some type of misconduct or criminal activity occurred and it was referred it to CSD for possible disciplinary action. In other words, OSI may receive an allegation of sexual assault and, during the investigation, obtain evidence that some other form of misconduct occurred.
According to information obtained by OIG, both through data collection and through interviews with Department employees, reports of sexual harassment increased from 2014 to 2017. OCR officials told OIG that this trend appears to be continuing. Additionally, one employee group expressed concern that sexual harassment is significantly underreported at the Department.
According to OCR data, reports of sexual harassment increased by 63 percent from 2014 to 2017, from 128 reports in 2014 to 209 reports in 2017. An OCR official told OIG that this increase may reflect an increased willingness to report sexual harassment based on an increased focus within the Department on the issue.
Reports of sexual assault have increased as well; OSI data shows a 71 percent increase in the number of reports of sexual assault from 2014 to 2017.
Current and former Department employees interviewed by OIG expressed the belief that, for employees serving overseas, there are no mechanisms in place to hold embassy management accountable for failing to address sexual harassment at post.
According to OCR data, OCR received 636 complaints of sexual harassment from 2014 to 2017. That’s an average of 212 complaints a year. Of the 636 complaints, 441 originated at overseas posts. An average of 147 cases a year.
From the beginning of 2014 until the end of 2017, OSI received 106 reports of alleged sexual assault. […] Of the 106 complaints received during the relevant time period, 16 were still under investigation; of the 90 investigations OSI had completed, 24 cases (27 percent) had some kind of substantiated misconduct.
For cases opened before 2018, OSI did not track substantiated sexual assault allegations as a separate category so OIG could not identify the precise number of sexual assaults.
Based on interviews and the survey of Department employees, OIG identified a number of factors that may contribute to underreporting, including lack of confidence in the Department’s ability to resolve complaints, fear of retaliation, and reluctance to discuss the harassment with others. Of the 154 survey respondents who responded that they experienced or observed sexual harassment within the last 2 years, 73 responded that they did not report the incident to OCR or DS. When asked why they had not reported incidents, of those 73, 25 employees agreed that they did not think that reporting would stop the sexual harassment; 19 employees agreed that they were afraid of retaliation; and 25 employees agreed that they did not want to discuss the incident (see Table 2).
… of the survey participants who experienced or observed sexual harassment but did not report it to OCR or DS, 34 percent stated that they did not do so because they did not think reporting would stop the harassment.
Employees who were interviewed and survey respondents stated that another likely cause of underreporting is fear of retaliation. Interviewees told OIG that they do not believe that OCR will protect their identities during the course of the investigation if they do decide to speak out.
According to the FAM, “the Department will seek to protect the identities of the alleged victim and harasser, except as reasonably necessary (for example, to complete an investigation successfully).” 3 FAM 1525.2-1(d). According to OCR’s guidance for harassment inquiries, however, upper-level management (such as CSD) may need to know the victim’s identity in order to assess the disciplinary action. CSD and L/EMP officials told OIG that employees accused of sexual harassment are entitled to procedural due process if CSD proposes discipline. For sexual harassment cases, this means that the accused receive the OCR investigative file that includes all victim and witness statements, including their names; for sexual assault cases, the discipline package includes OSI’s report of investigation.
Employees in interviews also expressed fear that reporting sexual harassment could harm their careers, either through overt retaliation or through the creation of a negative stigma and damage to the reporter’s “corridor reputation.”
One group representing Department employees told OIG that employees who experience sexual harassment are fearful that reporting it will cause their colleagues to view them as “troublemakers.”
Another employee group told OIG that the Foreign Service is a fairly small organization and reporting sexual harassment could give employees a poor reputation that will “follow them to future posts.”
…some Department employees told OIG that they were advised not to report the harassment that they experienced. Four survey respondents who experienced or observed sexual harassment stated that they did not report after being told not to do so.
On average, OIG’s selected cases took 21 months to move from intake to resolution.54 The length of cases varied from 139 days (i.e., almost 5 months) to 1,705 days (i.e., over 4 years)
Final disciplinary decisions for OIG’s selected sexual harassment cases ranged from no action to suspension. Although the Department had proposed discipline for 11 of the 20 cases, only 5 resulted in implementation of the disciplinary action.
For example, one case resulted in no action taken after FSGB overturned the Department’s disciplinary decision to issue a Letter of Reprimand. For the three cases resulting in resignations, CSD had decided on either suspensions or separations but ultimately reached negotiated settlements for resignation. One individual retired after receiving CSD’s proposed decision, and another retired as CSD was reviewing the case. According to CSD officials, individuals who retire before a final disciplinary decision do not have the proposal or disciplinary decision included in their official personnel file.
CSD has not updated the Foreign Service supervisory guide since 2004 and the civil service supervisory guide since 2007 to reflect sexual harassment policy changes. The supervisory guides aim to help supervisors and managers identify and address conduct and performance problems. The guides discuss the supervisor’s responsibilities, the disciplinary process, and certain types of misconduct. The guides do not, however, explain that supervisors are required to report allegations or observations of sexual harassment to OCR, although doing so has been a requirement in the FAM since 2010.
OIG randomly selected 2,000 Department direct-hire employees who were employed as of October 1, 2018. OIG conducted a pre-test of the survey with 20 of the randomly selected employees. OIG surveyed the remaining 1,980 employees and received “undeliverable” responses from 215 email accounts. A total of 479 employees responded to the survey, accounting for a 27 percent response rate.
Several factors may have affected the response rate: lack of access to Department e-mail during the 5-week lapse in appropriations; the sensitive nature of the subject; and employees being out of the office during the timeframe.4 Additionally, due to limited resources, OIG did not select a sample of respondents to validate their survey responses. OIG’s statistician analyzed the data by reviewing the responses of survey respondents. OIG also interviewed 10 employees who contacted OIG to share their personal experiences with sexual harassment at the Department. Additionally, OIG interviewed employee groups representing Department employees for additional employee perspectives on sexual harassment.
Related posts from 2014-2016:
— State OIG (@StateOIG) October 2, 2020
This is a follow-up to our post: U.S. Civil Rights Commission Examines Sexual Harassment in Federal Govt (State, NASA) #FedMeToo
The U.S. Commission by unanimous vote extended the public comment period for its sexual harassment in the federal workplaces investigation from June 10th to Monday, June 25th.
The Commission is seeking to learn more from the public about sexual harassment in the federal government, including:
The Commission will now accept written materials for consideration as we prepare our report on the subject. Please submit no later than June 25th, 2019 to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Staff Director/Public Comments, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1150, Washington, DC 20425. Testimony from this briefing and public comments will inform our 2019 report to Congress, the President, and the American people regarding the state of sexual harassment in the federal government.
On May 9, 2019, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a public hearing in Washington, D.C. to examine the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) enforcement efforts to combat workplace sexual harassment across the federal government, including the frequency of such claims and findings of harassment, the resources dedicated to preventing and redressing harassment, and the impact and efficacy of these enforcement efforts. The briefing also examined agency-level practices to address sexual harassment at the U.S. Department of State and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Commissioners heard from current and former government officials, academic and legal experts, advocates, and individuals who have experienced harassment.
Below is the video of the event. The State Department portion starts at the 2 hour mark. After listening to the State Department representative OCR’s Gregory Smith presentation in this hearing, we’re now actually curious about the kind of training he is talking about. It almost sound as if he’s waving the State Department training as a magic wand. And after everything he said during the hearing, we are no closer in understanding what specifically is involved in their sexual harassment training.
Also, apparently, according to the State Department rep, they “strongly enforced” steps against people taking any type of retaliation but … admitted under questioning by the USCCR that “no one has been fired” for retaliation (3:07 mark). Well, now …
Jenna Ben-Yehuda, the President and CEO of the Truman National Security Project and a former State Department employee also spoke at this hearing as well as Stephen T. Shih, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity. Both were impressive. This is worth your time, and don’t miss the Q&A at the end.
Morning Session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0GjPYRAsHQ . (includes State, NASA Reps)
Afternoon Session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOZqWFIimoQ (includes CRS rep, NSF)
Public Comments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgEFjUr3gHE . (includes USDOJ, State FSO)
The Commission says it routinely seeks public comments on the substance of its briefings. The public comment period is 30 days following the date of the hearing or briefing, unless provided otherwise. Since the public briefing: “Federal Me Too: Examining Sexual Harassment in Government Workplaces” occurred on May 9, the Commission will accept written materials until June 10 for consideration as they prepare their report on the subject. Please submit no later than June 10, 2019 to email@example.com or by mail to: Staff Director/Public Comments, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1150, Washington, DC 20425.
We understand that the USCCR has asked employees (and the public) for information about:
Through June 10, we’re accepting written public comments in the context of our May 9 briefing, Federal Me Too: Examining Sexual Harassment in Government Workplaces. We want to hear from you on this important #CivilRights topic! https://t.co/IqOAwarj4N #USCCRBriefings pic.twitter.com/k9nzvWP4tc
— USCCR (@USCCRgov) May 30, 2019
Posted: 12:50 am ET
The State Department’s Inspector General started work on some subjects of note since last February. For those with stories to share about sexual harassment (and sexual assault), please contact the OIG Hotline or call 1-800-409-9926 and 1-202-647-3320.
We recognize that sexual harassment and sexual assaults are difficult to talk about, and all who we have been in contact with were deeply concerned of career repercussions. But we can all agree that these offenders – particularly high ranking individuals who abused their positions — will not stop until people stand up to them.
We’ve blogged about harassment and assaults for a while now. Back in August 2016 , State/OIG told us that while they take allegations of sexual harassment “very seriously” as a general matter, “OIG refers allegations of sexual harassment, equal employment opportunity, and/or potential hostile work environment to the Department’s Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), consistent with the FAM.”
State/OIG also informed us then that “if such matters appear systemic, then OIG may investigate. Indeed, in its report “Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security” (ESP-15-01) OIG examined the case of a Diplomatic Security manager with a long history of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations dating back 10 years.”
Also this: “Department employees who believe they have been subjected to whistleblower retaliation may contact OIG or the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OIG can help the individual in understanding their rights and may investigate the retaliation, as well as alert the Department to any illegal reprisal.”
It took awhile but it looks like the IG is looking into this now. We hope that people will find the courage to speak up and consider sharing their stories. We don’t know when this moment will come again.
In April 2018, the following work were also started:
Note that this is not an exhaustive list of all the OIG work started.
The terms “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment” – and even “rape” – crop up daily in the news. We are likely to see these terms more as the #MeToo movement continues.
Many people want to understand these behaviors and work to prevent them. It helps if we are consistent and as precise as possible when we use these terms.
But what does each term mean?
We are three scholars who have specialized in the scientific study of sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment over several decades. Let’s start by defining each of these terms. Then, we can look at how these behaviors sometimes overlap.
The term that has been in the news most recently with reference to sports doctor Larry Nassar’s trial is sexual abuse, a form of mistreating children. Sexual abuse is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults.
All 50 states have laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act. In the United States, the age at which consent can be given ranges from 16 to 18 years.
Sexual abuse can include many different things, from touching a victim in a sexual manner to forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way to making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act.
In 2012, the FBI issued a revised definition of rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The revised law is gender neutral, meaning that anyone can be a victim.
When carefully examined, the FBI definition does not look like most people’s idea of rape – typically perpetrated by a stranger through force. The FBI definition says nothing about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator and it says nothing about force. It does, however, say something about consent, or rather, the lack of it. Think about consent as your ability to make a decision about what happens to your body.
A perpetrator can compel a victim into a penetrative sex act in multiple ways. A perpetrator can ignore verbal resistance – like saying “no,” “stop” or “I don’t want to” – or overpower physical resistance by holding a person down so they cannot move. A person can penetrate a victim who is incapable of giving consent because he or she is drunk, unconscious, asleep, or mentally or physically incapacitated; or can threaten or use physical force or a weapon against a person. Essentially, these methods either ignore or remove the person’s ability to make an autonomous decision about what happens to their body. State laws vary in how they define removing or ignoring consent.
Perpetrators can’t defend against charges of rape by claiming they were drunk themselves or by saying they are married to the victim.
Rape and sexual assault have been used interchangeably in coverage of events leading to the #MeToo movement, and this practice, though unintentional, is confusing. In contrast to the specific criminal act of rape, the term sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, from unwanted touching and kissing, to rubbing, groping or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways. But sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape.
Social and behavioral scientists often use the term “sexual violence.” This term is far more broad than sexual assault. It include acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic. Sexual violence includes using false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts. It can encompass noncontact acts like catcalls and whistles, which can make women feel objectified and victimized. It includes nonconsensual electronic sharing of explicit images, exposure of genitals and surreptitious viewing of others naked or during sex.
Sexual harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior.
One is sexual coercion – legally termed “quid pro quo harassment” – referring to implicit or explicit attempts to make work conditions contingent upon sexual cooperation. The classic “sleep with me or you’re fired” scenario is a perfect example of sexual coercion. It is the most stereotypical form of sexual harassment, but also the rarest.
A second, and more common, form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention: unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, relentless pressure for dates or sexual behavior. Note that romantic and sexual overtures come in many varieties at work, not all of them harassing. To constitute unlawful sexual harassment, the sexual advances must be unwelcome and unpleasant to the recipient. They must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to “create an abusive working environment,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Unwanted sexual attention can include sexual assault and even rape. If an employer were to forcibly kiss and grope a receptionist without her consent, this would be an example of both unwanted sexual attention and sexual assault – both a civil offense and a crime.
Most sexual harassment, however, entails no sexual advance. This third and most common manifestation is gender harassment: conduct that disparages people based on gender, but implies no sexual interest. Gender harassment can include crude sexual terms and images, for example, degrading comments about bodies or sexual activities, graffiti calling women “cunts” or men “pussies.” More often than not, though, it is purely sexist, such as contemptuous remarks about women being ill-suited for leadership or men having no place in childcare. Such actions constitute “sexual” harassment because they are sex-based, not because they involve sexuality.
In lay terms, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention are come-ons, whereas gender harassment is a put-down. Still, they are all forms of sexual harassment and can all violate law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Historically, social attitudes towards all these hostile actions have assumed a continuum of severity. Sexist graffiti and insults are offensive, but no big deal, right? Verbal sexual overtures cannot be as bad as physical ones. And, if there was no penetration, it can’t have been all that bad.
These assumptions do not hold up to scientific scrutiny, however. For example, researchers at the University of Melbourne analyzed data from 73,877 working women. They found that experiences of gender harassment, sexist discrimination and the like are more corrosive to work and well-being, compared to encounters with unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion.
We have tried to clarify terms that are now becoming household words. Of course, life is complicated. Abusive, assaulting or harassing behavior cannot always be neatly divided into one category or another – sometimes it belongs in more than one. Nevertheless, it is important to use terms in accurate ways to promote the public’s understanding.
Finally, we take heed that society is in a period like no other and one we thought we would never see. People are reflecting on, and talking about, and considering and reconsidering their experiences and their behavior. Definitions, criminal and otherwise, change with social standards. This time next year, we may be writing a new column.
Sarah L. Cook, Professor & Associate Dean, Georgia State University; Lilia M. Cortina, Professor of Psychology, Women’s Studies, and Management & Organizations, University of Michigan, and Mary P. Koss, Regents’ Professor of Public Health, University of Arizona
In related news — harassment at the State Department affects not just FSOs, not just Foreign Service employees, but also Civil Service employees, and contractors (remember the Female Contractor at DS Training Center who was reportedly fired 3 hours after filing a harassment complaint?) Click here for our prior posts on sexual harassment, and here for our posts on sexual assaults and rape.
And, the long rumored FP piece is finally out.
@StateDept @statedeptspox What if you spent that $1 million consultant fee from the failed redesign on something of actual value? What do you think @Diplopundit @emilyctamkin @RobbieGramer https://t.co/eHMp6d0XPW #TimesUp #MeToo
— Stephanie Schmid (@slsnator) March 5, 2018
"a male colleague was playing with his genitals while talking to her, was told by a colleague that several men at post did that “to help them think” — that is, that this was not an offense worth reporting." Are these same ppl who talks about sticky balls https://t.co/Pjm60t5tIO https://t.co/3f9y2HAV4A
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) March 6, 2018
Posted: 3:31 am ET
On January 11, Deputy Secretary Sullivan held a session “Harassment in the Workplace” at the State Department (see @StateDept to Hold “Harassment in the Workplace” Session But First, Read This FSI Sexual Harassment Case). The following day, Secretary Tillerson delivered his remarks on values, also specifically addressing sexual harassment.
We understand that for a while there on January 12, Secretary Tillerson’s Conversation on the Value of Respect was reportedly the “tip of the day” when you log in to the Department’s OpenNet. That’s right, just mere hours after the President of the United States was reported to call certain countries “shitholes” during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House. Click here for reactions from different countries.
We’re not sure why both Deputy Secretary and the Secretary talked about sexual harassment two days in a row. Our most charitable take is that this is something the State Department cares very much, and the senior leadership would like to impress upon employees the importance it places on sexual harassment (see our posts on sexual harassment here). The less charitable take is that they’ve heard about folks talking to Congress about sexual harassment at the State Department, and they did not want to be perceived as not doing anything. (See Senators Seek Review/Analysis of @StateDept and @USAID Sexual Harassment and Assault Data; Congress Seeks Info on @StateDept Senior Executives Who Are Subjects of Multiple Complaints; Inbox: “State Department absolutely deserves to have a trial by media”).
Of course, we also have our jaded take and we’re not alone on this — that Tillerson’s folks had atrocious timing, and did not want to seem like the Secretary was criticizing his boss on the day when the “shitholes” comment was bouncing around the globe.
Fast-forward to February 12, Tillerson has now reportedly announced mandatory sexual harassment training for State Department employees. Reuters reports that the mandatory training is supposed to be completed by June 1:
“There is no form of disrespect for the individual that I can identify, anything more demeaning than for someone to suffer this kind of treatment,” he said.
“It’s not OK if you’re seeing it happening and just look away. You must do something. You must notify someone. You must step in and intervene,” Tillerson added, speaking in Cairo to about 150 U.S. embassy staff outside the ambassador’s residence.
We’d be interested to know who provides the training, and what’s the source of the training material. For those who experienced sexual harassment first hand, we’d like to know if you think this mandatory training would help remedy the problem.
Tillerson announces mandatory sexual harassment training https://t.co/N7Pp6hBa6X
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 12, 2018
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) February 12, 2018
Secretary Tillerson: Harassment and abuse have no place in a country founded on the value of individual liberty. It can have no place in our State Department– not here in Washington, not at our posts abroad, nowhere. It will not be tolerated. pic.twitter.com/WUIZxNEcNJ
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) January 12, 2018
AND NOW THIS — Randy Rainbow’s ‘Stand By Your Man’ is quite memorable.
— Randy Rainbow (@RandyRainbow) February 12, 2018
Posted: 2:29 am ET
U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ranking Member of the SFRC Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, led the Committee’s Democrats in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and USAID Administrator Mark Green on January 17, requesting a review and analysis of data to better understand the scope of sexual harassment and assault issues at the Department and Agency, in order to consider appropriate policy changes to address the problems.
Note that back in September 2016, this blog wanted to know the statistics on sexual assault in the Foreign Service, specifically in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003. We were also interested in overall statistics on sexual assault in the Foreign Service worldwide, during the last 10 years. We did not ask for names, only numbers. We simply asked for an accounting of sexual assault reports since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the present, and the worldwide number of reports spanning over 280 overseas posts in the last 10 years. We were sure the data must be available somewhere. How could it not?
This was the State Department’s official response at that time:
“The Office of Special Investigations receives and catalogues allegations and complaints. Allegations are neither categorized by location nor by alleged offense.”
That remains a shocking response.
Without looking at their data by location and offense, or for that matter by individuals accused, how is the State Department to know when there are serial offenders in its ranks? (See The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief).
In its 4th Quarter 2017 report for period ending September 30, 2017, the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) does have some information on Equal Employment Opportunity Data required by the No Fear Act. The public report indicates that reprisal is the number one complaint by basis in FY2017. Non-sexual harassment went from 72 complaints in 2016 to 103 at the end of FY2017. The comparative report notes 3 complaints of sexual harassment in 2016 and 6 complaints at end of FY2017.
The average number of days in investigation? 207.17 days.
Total Findings of Discrimination after a hearing for sexual harassment? Zero. In 2012.
Also zero in 2013, in 2014, in 2015, in 2016, and through the end of FY2017. Zero.
Apparently, S/OCR does not also count cases reversed by the EEOC like that 2016 case where S/OCR did not find sexual harassment but where the EEOC decided that the complainant was indeed subjected to sexual harassment and ordered the State Department to take remedial actions (see @StateDept to Hold “Harassment in the Workplace” Session But First, Read This FSI Sexual Harassment Case).
S/OCR was recently a presenter in a State Department Q&A session “Should I Report That? How (and when) to Report Workplace Conflict, Harassment & Bias in the Department”.
Below is the text of the letter to Secretary Tillerson and USAID Administrator Mark Green:
We write to draw to your attention the November 28, 2017 letter signed by over 200 national security professionals who have served, often with distinction, in the State Department, the intelligence community, USAID, and the Pentagon about their experiences of (or serving as witnesses to) incidents of sexual harassment or sexual assault inside our national security bureaucracies.
This letter speaks to what we believe remains a critical issue that too many of our national security institutions have been too slow to address: sexual assault and harassment and its effects on the professionalism and effective functioning of those institutions. These incidents and the pervasive culture that all too frequently excuses these behaviors and actions have had serious and detrimental consequences for the careers and lives of those affected – and by depriving the United States of the service of some of our best and brightest, a deep and negative effect on our national security.
To better address this issue, we would urge you to provide the Foreign Relations Committee a review of your current methods for data collection, oversight, reporting structure, victim protections, analysis and anti-sexual harassment training, including employee feedback on these mechanisms and how they are being implemented. In our oversight capacity, we hope to work with you, to review and analyze the data to better understand the scope of the problem we confront as we consider appropriate policy changes to address it.
The November 28 letter contends that training is all too often “erratic” and “irregular,” and that policies often go unnoticed among staff. In our experiences serving on the oversight committee with responsibilities for the Department of State and USAID we concur with this contention. We would urge that you pay special attention to whether anti-harassment training is adequate, how it is implemented, and how it is enforced, in your respective reviews. We also urge you to examine your procedures for disciplinary actions to ensure that those who demonstrate improper behavior are held accountable for their actions.
The letter also calls for a number of reforms including a clear indication that national security leadership will not tolerate certain behavior, ensuring the full accessibility and functioning of “multiple, clear, private” channels to report abuse without fear of retribution, and ensuring sufficiently regular, mandatory, and instructive training for employees and contractors. We would be interested in your thoughts and comments on these potential areas for reform.
We also urge that you each take the opportunity to work with us to determine what additional resources are necessary to ensure that each report and allegation receives proper attention, that your offices are collecting all the relevant data, that cases are addressed in a timely and confidential fashion, and that training is fully implemented across the State and USAID workforce.
At a moment in our country when we are being reminded anew of the scope and challenge of sexual harassment in the workplace, we are rededicating ourselves here in the Senate to addressing this issue in our own ranks. The Legislative branch faces similar challenges and that while we work to address them, we expect the same from executive branch agencies. For our part, in addition to exploring appropriate oversight and legislative action to ensure that you have the resources and focus that you need to address these issues, we also intend to place additional emphasis on these issues in the confirmation process. We intend to ensure that nominees live up to the highest standards of behavior, and will seek commitments regarding how they intend to address sexual harassment and assault if they are confirmed.
Lastly, we note that the abuses, harassment and assaults noted in the November 28 letter are enabled by an environment in which the diversity of our nation – one of our “secret weapons” and competitive advantages as a nation – is not reflected in the national security workforce. This is especially true at the senior levels. At the State Department, for example, women and men enter the Foreign Service in roughly comparable numbers, but only about one-third of our senior Foreign Service Officers are women. Although women comprise a majority of the Civil Service, the Senior Executive Service remains 61% male and 89% white. Similarly disturbing trends come to light when analyzing the salaries, bonuses and expectations of workplace behavior amongst men and women working in national security roles. We still have a long way to go on gender equality in the national security workforce, and encourage you to share with us as well your vision for how you plan to address deficiencies in recruitment, retention and promotion to assure that your national security workforce is equitably balanced.
The members of our national security workforce should not be forced to spend their time and energy combatting harassment and a culture of tolerance for disrespectful behavior. Rather, they should be free to focus on what they do best – working to keep our nation safe. And we know from numerous studies that a more diverse workforce leads to better outcomes. A 2015 McKinsey study found that a more diverse workforce is more successful through improved decision-making, leadership, and financial progress. We know that to be true in the private sector and we know that to be true for government as well.
Mindful that there are myriad challenges and opportunities to better address sexual harassment in the workplace we do not seek nor do we expect you to develop a cookie-cutter approach to these issues. Rather, we call on you to respect the dignity of each member of our national security workforce by ensuring an environment in which each individual is capable of fully contributing his or her talents to our national security, without obstruction.
The original text of letter is posted here.
Posted: 3:40 am ET
— Felicia Schwartz (@felschwartz) January 9, 2018
For those attending the event, here are a few items to read though this is not an exhaustive list. Help us ask these presenters questions that State/PA and State/DS have long ignored:
While we are on the subject, let us revisit a classic case of sexual harassment, where the State Department, specifically one of the presenting offices in the January 11 session had determined that “the alleged acts of sexual harassment did not occur” only to be reversed by the EEOC.
On January 4, 2012, Complainant filed Complaint 24 alleging that the Agency discriminated against her based on her national origin (Arabic/Iraqi), sex (female), religion (Christian), color, and in reprisal for prior protected EEO activity under Title VII when:
3. Her teaching contract was not renewed after August 5, 2011;
4. She was subjected to a hostile work environment characterized by, but not limited to, name calling and sharing an office. She specifically asserted that since her conversion to Christianity, she was taunted by her Iraqi colleagues, who called her a “peasant,” a “prostitute,” a “bitch,’ and a “daughter of a dog.” She asserted further that she had been told that she had “sold her religion” and had a shoe thrown at her. Complainant further asserted that she had been the victim of an unsolicited sexual overture by a colleague; and
5. On September 23, 2011, she was not selected for a full time teaching position.
The Agency completed its initial investigation on Complaint 1 in November 2012. It did not complete an investigation on Complaint 2. On Complaint 2, according to the Agency, Complainant did not submit an affidavit for the investigation. Around that time – on March 14, 2013 – Complainant signed forms withdrawing Complaints 1 and 2.5 The Agency ceased processing Complaint 2, but went ahead and issued a FAD on Complaint 1 on May 13, 2013.
In its FAD, the Agency found no discrimination on Complaint 1. Complainant filed an appeal. On appeal, the Agency did not note that Complainant previously withdrew her complaint.
In EEOC Appeal No. 0120132236 (May 16, 2014), we recounted that Complainant was provided the right to request a hearing before an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Administrative Judge, but there was no evidence she did so. We reversed the FAD on the ground that the investigation was inadequate. Unaware that that Complainant withdrew Complaints 1 and 2, we ordered the Agency to do a supplemental investigation and to consolidate Complaint 2 with Complaint 1 if the Agency was still processing Complaint 2 and had not yet issued a final decision thereon.
In its request for reconsider EEOC Appeal No. 0120132236, the Agency argued that it issued its FAD on Complaint 1 in error, and that Complainant previously withdrew Complaints 1 and 2. It submitted a copy of its letter to the EEOC compliance officer about the withdrawal of Complaint 1, and Complainant’s signed withdrawals. We denied the request on the ground that it was untimely filed, and repeated our order in EEOC Appeal No. 0120132236.
Following a supplemental investigation on Complaint 1, the Agency issued a new FAD finding no discrimination therein. The Agency found that Complainant was not denied the opportunity to attend training and to proctor tests, and the alleged acts of sexual harassment did not occur. The Agency recounted that it ceased processing Complaint 2 after she withdrew it.6
The EEOC’s decision says that the “Complainant was not subjected to discrimination regarding issue 2” but it determined that “Complainant was subjected to discrimination based on her sex regarding issue 1 – sexual harassment.”
This case which was filed in 2010 was decided by the EEOC on July 7, 2016. Six years. The State Department was ordered to take the following remedial actions within 150 days after the decision became final, and was “directed to submit a report of compliance, as provided in the statement entitled “Implementation of the Commission’s Decision.” The report shall include supporting documentation of the agency’s calculation of back pay and other benefits due complainant, including evidence that the corrective action has been implemented.”
1. The Agency is directed to conduct training at FSI, School of Language Studies for all management and staff in the Arabic Section. The training shall focus on how to identify and prevent sexual harassment connected with employment.14
2. If S2 is still employed with the Agency, it shall consider taking disciplinary action against him. The Agency shall report its decision. If the Agency decides to take disciplinary action, it shall identify the action taken. If the Agency decides not to take disciplinary action, it shall set forth the reason(s) for its decision not to impose discipline.
3. The Agency shall gather evidence on compensatory damages, including providing Complainant an opportunity to submit evidence of her pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages regarding being sexually harassed. For guidance on what evidence is necessary to prove pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, the parties are directed to EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Compensatory and Punitive Damages Available Under § 102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (July 14, 1992) (available at eeoc.gov.) Thereafter, the Agency shall calculate damages, pay Complainant any damages awarded, and issue a new FAD on damages appealable to the Commission.
The State Department was also directed to post the EEOC order:
The Agency is ordered to post at its Foreign Service Institute, School of Language Studies copies of the attached notice. Copies of the notice, after being signed by the Agency’s duly authorized representative, shall be posted both in hard copy and electronic format by the Agency within 30 calendar days of the date this decision becomes final, and shall remain posted for 60 consecutive days, in conspicuous places, including all places where notices to employees are customarily posted. The Agency shall take reasonable steps to ensure that said notices are not altered, defaced, or covered by any other material. The original signed notice is to be submitted to the Compliance Officer at the address cited in the paragraph entitled “Implementation of the Commission’s Decision,” within 10 calendar days of the expiration of the posting period.