(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 post to USCCR extends comment period for sexual harassment inquiry to Monday, June 25th and U.S. Civil Rights Commission Examines Sexual Harassment in Federal Govt (State, NASA) #FedMeToo.
We asked the USCCR how federal employees can protect themselves from potential retaliation from their agencies, and still be able to contribute to the Commission’s inquiry on sexual harassment in government offices. We understand that some State Department employees may also be tied up with NDAs that may prevent them from discussing some details (for instance sensitive or classified locations, etc). We were also interested in learning if the Commission is also looking into practices at other agencies, and if so, which agencies are also being looked at (besides NASA and the State Department).
Below is the response we received from USCCR:
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 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. 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 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.
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
State/OIG’s FY2019-2020 Work Plan includes the following matters that are expected to be completed in FY2019.
Review of the Department of State Organizational Redesign Effort (M/PRI)
President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO 13781) directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit a comprehensive plan to reorganize Executive Branch departments and agencies in 2017. In response, the Department initiated a redesign effort. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 required reorganization and redesign oversight. Specifically, OIG was asked to review the processes by which the Department “developed and implemented reorganization and redesign efforts and plans.” The objective of this review is to determine whether the processes employed by the Department to develop and implement its organizational redesign effort and plan complied with applicable Federal law and OMB guidance.
Review of Allegations of Prohibited Personnel Practices in the Office of the Secretary and the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (S, IO)
In response to congressional requests, referrals from the Department, and several hotline complaints, OIG initiated this special review of allegations that political appointees at the Department engaged in prohibited personnel practices against career officials.
Review of Sexual Harassment Processes (S, OCR)
This evaluation will assess how the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) responds to sexual harassment allegations made against Department employees and whether discipline is taken when allegations are substantiated.
Audit of Special Needs Education Allowance (CGFS)
By law, for employees serving in foreign areas, the Department must provide a Special Needs Education Allowance (SNEA) for children who meet the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act. This allowance assists employees in meeting the extraordinary and necessary expenses incurred in providing adequate education for dependent children at overseas posts. The objective of this audit is to determine whether the Department has established and applied select internal control requirements from the Government Accountability Office’s Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government to effectually administer SNEA in accordance with Federal law and Department requirements.
Audit of Global Engagement Center (GEC) Coordination of U.S. Government Efforts To Counter Terrorist Messaging and Influence (GEC)
The Secretary of State established the GEC in April 2016 pursuant to Executive Order 13721 to “lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.” From 2016 to 2018, the GEC received $200 million to coordinate U.S. Government counter-messaging efforts to ensure they are streamlined and to eliminate duplication, and to consult with allied governments, nongovernmental organizations, civil society, and private-sector experts about best practices in confronting state- sponsored propaganda and disinformation. In addition, the GEC provided direct support to foreign nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, and other organizations. The objective of this audit is to determine whether the GEC has demonstrated progress toward achieving its statutory mission of leading, synchronizing, and coordinating U.S. Government efforts to counter foreign-state and non-state actors’ propaganda and disinformation.
Evaluation of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Aegis Construction Contract at Camp Eggers, Afghanistan (DS/OBO/A)
In 2014, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security sought to mitigate the daily threats posed to the high-risk convoy movements conducted by the Kabul Embassy Security Force (KESF) by moving the KESF closer to U.S. Embassy Kabul to minimize dangerous convoy movements to and from the Embassy. To achieve this, it modified Task Order 10, a security contract held by Aegis, to include the construction of a camp for KESF personnel at Camp Eggers with an estimated project cost of about $173.3 million. However, this contract was eventually terminated without the completion of any significant work. This evaluation will examine how Aegis was selected for the construction of Camp Eggers; what caused multiple cost overruns and delays; why the Department continued using Aegis after non- compliance concerns were identified shortly after award; and what the Department received after spending $97.6 million on Camp Eggers.
Via The Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law | Volume 1, Fiscal Year 2019
Commission Increased Award of Compensatory Damages to $50,000. The Commission previously determined that Complainant was discriminated against when the Agency failed to grant him a medical clearance based on its “worldwide availability” requirement. Following a supplemental investigation, the Agency awarded Complainant $5,000 in non-pecuniary compensatory damages noting that Complainant did not provide any medical evidence to support his claim. The Commission increased the award to $50,000 on appeal. Complainant stated that he became despondent, depressed, and reclusive because of the Agency’s discriminatory actions. Complainant experienced sleeplessness, crying spells, weight loss, anger, and humiliation. Complainant’s husband and friends submitted statements supporting his claim. The Commission determined that an award of $50,000 in nonpecuniary compensatory damages was more appropriate given the nature, severity and duration of the distress Complainant experienced as a direct result of the discrimination. Harvey D. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 0120171079 (Aug. 23, 2018).
Commission Increased Award of Non-Pecuniary Damages to $50,000. The Commission previously found that Complainant was subjected to sexual harassment by her supervisor and ordered the Agency, among other things, to investigate Complainant’s claim for damages. The Agency awarded Complainant $20,000 in non-pecuniary damages, and the Commission increased the award to $50,000 on appeal. The Commission noted that, more likely than not, the sexual harassment was not the only factor that caused Complainant’s depression and anxiety. Complainant’s brother was executed in the Middle East, and Complainant also noted that her co-workers questioned her reputation because of the way she dressed. Nevertheless, the Commission found that the sexual harassment was a significant reason for the ridicule Complainant experienced, as well as her depression, poor self-esteem, irritability, anger, difficulty sleeping, exhaustion, weight gain, and thoughts of suicide. The Commission noted that, seven months after the harassment ceased Complainant was able to form a romantic relationship, and she continued working at the Agency. Considering all of these factors, the Commission concluded that Complainant was entitled to an award of $50,000 in non-pecuniary damages. The Commission concurred with the Agency that Complainant failed to prove her claim for pecuniary damages. Blanca B. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 0120171031 (Aug. 16, 2018).
Institutional betrayal can lead to real psychological and physical harm.
A 27-year-old medical resident in general surgery is sexually harassed by two men – the chief resident and a staff physician at the hospital. She feels trapped. When one of the men’s actions escalates to assault, she struggles to find the strength and courage to report it.
When she finally does, will the outcome harm her even more?
The story, a fictional composite based on real accounts in our research, is agonizingly familiar. The outcome is often worse. When sexual harassment and assault occur in the context of an institution – a school, the military, a workplace – the behavior of institutional leaders can become a powerful force in how the victim fares.
From Susan Fowler’s poor treatment by Uber’s human resources department to the silence of non-abusive men in Harvey Weinstein’s orbit, our most powerful institutions often act without courage.
However, if institutions want to do the hard work, they can help victims and prevent violence in the first place – by choosing courage instead of betrayal.
My colleagues and I first introduced the term institutional betrayal in 2007, and have since explored it further, including in a book, “Blind to Betrayal.”
Institutional betrayal is harm an institution does to those who depend upon it. This betrayal can take the form of overt policies or behaviors, such as discriminatory rules or genocide.
Harm can also mean failing to do that what is reasonably expected of the institution, such as not providing relief to disaster victims or failing to respond effectively to sexual violence. For instance, some victims of assault are punished or even demoted or fired for reporting the assault to their institution.
In our studies, we found that more than 40 percent of college student participants who were sexually victimized in an institutional context did also report experiences of institutional betrayal.
These power ratios between harasser and victim can be quite significant, depending on the victim’s status. While the medical resident’s issues in our first example are deeply troubling, she may have more leverage to seek justice than a hotel or restaurant worker who is the daily and unrelenting target of harassment.
My work with clinical psychologist Carly Smith at Penn State shows that institutional betrayal can cause both emotional and physical health problems, even for those who have experienced similar levels of trauma from interpersonal betrayal.
One study found that institutional betrayal exacerbates symptoms associated with sexual trauma, such as anxiety, dissociation and sexual problems.
Other researchers have found similar effects. For instance, military sexual trauma survivors who have also experienced institutional betrayal have higher rates of PTSD symptoms and depression than those who have not experienced it. Perhaps most alarming, the survivors with institutional betrayal experiences had higher odds of attempting suicide.
In another study, we discovered that institutional betrayal is associated with physical health problems, such as headaches, sleep problems and shortness of breath.
What can we do to prevent and address institutional betrayal? The antidote is something my colleagues and I call “institutional courage.”
The details of institutional courage depend to some extent on the type of institution involved, but there are 10 general principles that can apply across most institutions.
1. Comply with criminal laws and civil rights codes.
Go beyond mere compliance. Avoid a check-box approach by stretching beyond minimal standards of compliance and reach for excellence in non-violence and equity.
2. Respond sensitively to victim disclosures.
Avoid cruel responses that blame and attack the victim. Even well-meaning responses can be harmful by, for instance, taking control away from the victim or by minimizing the harm. Better listening skills can also help institutions respond sensitively.
3. Bear witness, be accountable and apologize.
Create ways for individuals to discuss what happened to them. This includes being accountable for mistakes and apologizing when appropriate.
4. Cherish the whistleblower.
Those who raise uncomfortable truths are potentially the best friends of an institution. Once people in power have been notified about a problem, they can take steps to correct it. Encourage whistleblowing through incentives like awards and salary boosts.
5. Engage in a self-study.
Institutions should make a regular practice of asking themselves if they are promoting institutional betrayal. Focus groups and committees charged with regular monitoring can make all the difference.
6. Conduct anonymous surveys.
Well-done anonymous surveys are a powerful tool for disrupting institutional betrayal. Employ experts in sexual violence measurement, use the best techniques to get meaningful data, provide a summary of the results and talk openly about the findings. This will inspire trust and repair.
We developed a tool called the Institutional Betrayal Questionnaire. First published in 2013, the questionnaire probes a company’s employer-employee work environment to assess vulnerability to potential problems, the ease or difficulty of reporting such issues and how complaints are processed and handled.
7. Make sure leadership is educated about research on sexual violence and related trauma.
Teach about concepts and research on sexual violence and institutional betrayal. Use the research to create policies that prevent further harm to victims of harassment and assault.
8. Be transparent about data and policy.
Sexual violence thrives in secrecy. While privacy for individuals must be respected, aggregate data, policies and processes should be open to public input and scrutiny.
9. Use the power of your company to address the societal problem.
For instance, if you’re at a research or educational institution, then produce and disseminate knowledge about sexual violence. If you are in the entertainment industry, make documentaries and films. Find a way to use your product to help end sexual violence.
10. Commit resources to steps 1 through 9.
Good intentions are a good starting place, but staff, money and time need to be dedicated to make this happen. As Joe Biden once said: “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
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.