EEOC Reasonable Accommodation Case Gets Damage Award of $50K

 

Via EEOC Appeal 2019003637 (June 16, 2020):
Commission Increased Award of Damages to $50,000.
The Agency found that Complainant was denied reasonable accommodation, and awarded him $2,000 in nonpecuniary compensatory damages.   The Commission increased the award to $50,000 on appeal.  The Commission found that Complainant’s pre-existing knee injury was aggravated when the Agency denied Complainant access to a closer parking lot and required that he walk up a steep hill to and from his building even though his work restrictions on file limited his walking and restricted him from climbing steep hills.  The Commission considered statements from Complainant’s wife and two coworkers, who indicated that Complainant’s behavior changed following the denial of accommodation.  These individuals noted Complainant was no longer a “happy-go-lucky guy,” had sleepless nights, became disengaged from his family, and was a “different person” after the discrimination.  The Commission concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support an award of $50,000, which was consistent with awards in similar cases.  The Commission affirmed the Agency’s denial of past pecuniary damages finding that Complainant had not provided any documentation to support his purported personal costs associated with the discrimination.  Lowell H. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal 2019003637 (June 16, 2020).
Details below from EEOC Appeal:

During the period at issue, Complainant worked as a Motor Vehicle Operator, GS-8, at the Agency’s Operations Division in Washington, D.C.

On January 3, 2018, Complainant filed a formal EEO complaint claiming that the Agency discriminated against him based on disability (torn left medical collateral ligament (MCL) in left knee, torn left rotator cuff and left toe)2 when:

1. Complainant was denied a reasonable accommodation;

2. on August 17, 2017, Complainant received a memo regarding disciplinary action;

3. on September 20, 2017, Complainant received a Letter of Warning; and

4. Complainant was subjected to a hostile work environment, characterized by, but not limited to heightened scrutiny regarding his requests for leave, inappropriate language, and yelling.

Complainant was diagnosed with these conditions following a December 17, 2016 work-related injury. The injuries restricted Complainant to driving no more than four hours a day, limited Complainant’s use of his left arm to handle luggage, and limited walking to no more than twenty-five feet (including no climbing of steep hills).

On November 7, 2018, following an investigation, the Agency issued a final decision concluding that Complainant had established a failure to accommodate his disability in connection with parking privileges, the approval of leave requests, and the issuance of a letter of warning. For relief, the Agency ordered, among other remedies, a supplemental investigation into his claim for compensatory damages.

On April 10, 2019, the Agency issued a final decision on compensatory damages. The Agency rejected Complainant’s request for $300,000 in nonpecuniary compensatory damages. Instead, the Agency awarded Complainant $2,000 in nonpecuniary compensatory damages. In reaching this amount, the Agency reasoned that Complainant did not provide sufficient evidence to support that he suffered any long or short term physical or mental harm due to being denied his preferred parking arrangement, denied consideration of his leave requests, or being issued attendance-related discipline. With respect to his parking assignment, the Agency noted that Complainant indicated that his parking assignment at Navy Hill “aggravated” his pre-existing knee injury, without explaining the extent or type of aggravation he experienced. The Agency also disputed Complainant’s claim that he missed “a few sessions of therapy,” and indicated that the Agency’s November 7, 2018 decision only determined that Complainant was denied leave for one medical appointment. Finally, the Agency indicated that Complainant’s request for $300,000 is more akin to a request for punitive damages, even though punitive damages are not permitted on a federal-sector complaint.

The Agency awarded $2,000 in nonpecuniary damages. We find, however, that that an award of $50,000 is more consistent with the amounts awarded in similar cases.

###

EEOC: @StateDept Liable For Supervisor’s Harassment of Pregnant Subordinate at US Mission/UNVIE

Via EEOC: Cecille W. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 2019001540 (Aug. 19, 2020).
Sex Discrimination & Sexual Harassment Found.  Complainant, an Assistant Public Affairs Officer, filed a formal complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against her on the basis of sex (pregnancy) when her work responsibilities were altered; she received written performance counseling; and she was subjected to a hostile work environment, including receiving inappropriate comments and being excluded from meetings and emails.  On appeal, the Commission found that Complainant was subjected to discrimination and harassment as alleged.  The record showed that Complainant’s work duties were altered due to her pregnancy, and the Agency incorrectly concluded otherwise.  Complainant’s supervisor specifically stated that she could not supervise Complainant if Complainant was pregnant, and Complainant then ceased performing tasks that were under the supervisor’s purview.  The Agency also excluded Complainant from certain weekly meetings at the supervisor’s request.  The Agency conceded that Complainant was subjected to harassment based on sex that affected a term or condition of her employment.  The Commission found that the Agency was liable for the harassment.  The Commission noted that the Agency could not use an affirmative defense because Complainant’s changed work duties constituted a tangible employment action.  Furthermore, even if there were no tangible employment actions, the Agency failed to take prompt and effective action when it failed to fully remove the responsible management official from supervisory authority over Complainant.  The Agency was ordered, among other things, to investigate Complainant’s claim for compensatory damages, and reinstate Complainant’s assignments.  Cecille W. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 2019001540 (Aug. 19, 2020).
This Assistant Public Affairs Officer’s EEO case was investigated by the State Department (that would be S/OCR).
“The Agency concluded that Complainant failed to prove that the Agency subjected her to discrimination or harassment as alleged.”
BUT.
The EEOC found that the Complainant “has proven that she was discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment based on her sex as alleged.”
The Commission concluded that “Based on a thorough review of the record and the contentions on appeal, including those not specifically addressed herein” and reversed the Agency’s final decision.
It also remanded the case to the State Department for further processing in accordance with its decision and remedial actions ordered to include among other things, complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages, disciplinary actions against responsible management officials, and a requirement of “no less than eight (8) hours of appropriate in-person or interactive training to the management officials involved in this case regarding their obligations under Title VII with special emphasis on harassment and responding to claims of harassment.”‘
Note that EEOC cases have randomly assigned pseudonyms which replace Complainants’ names when decisions are published to non-parties and the Commission’s website.
Excerpts:

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as an Assistant Public Affairs Officer (APAO), FS-04, at the Agency’s U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, Austria.

Complainant identified her first-level supervisor (S1), a Public Affairs Officer (PAO), as the individual who discriminated against and subjected her to a hostile work environment.

Complainant stated that over a series of days in early October 2017, following S1’s miscarriage, S1 sent Complainant Facebook messages discussing S1’s miscarriage, desire to curtail, and disappointment with how she felt that Complainant was treating her. Complainant averred that prior to October 2017, she and S1 were friends. However, S1 informed Complainant that she could no longer supervise her following her miscarriage and Complainant’s pregnancy.
[…]
On October 30, 2017, Complainant and S1 participated in mediation. Following the mediation, the mediator expressed concern that due to personal circumstances, S1 was hypersensitive to remarks and interaction with Complainant. The mediator stated that the it was “clear that [S1] rationalized her decisions as business appropriate and not based on personal situations.” The mediator added that S1’s remarks and the timing of events made it clear that S1 wanted to minimize contact with Complainant, however, it “look[ed] on face value as an effort to remove [Complainant] from places [S1] is attending and appears to lessen the exposure of [Complainant] to people and meetings she attended for over a year and a half.”

On November 3, 2017, management officials counseled S1, stating that they did not believe that S1 could properly carry out her supervisory responsibilities if she minimized direct contact with Complainant. Management officials informed S1 that excluding Complainant from Senior Staff meetings and removing her from the Senior Staff distribution list was inappropriate. On November 6, 2017, Complainant informed Human Resources officials that she was removed from her social media duties and inquired about what options were available.

On November 15, 2017, the Chargé d’Affaires informed Complainant that she wanted Complainant to attend Senior Staff meetings but did not feel the same way about the PAS meeting. She acknowledged that Complainant was experiencing a very difficult situation, stating “we know it is a bad situation and we want to, and are trying, to find a solution.” On the following day, Complainant informed the Chargé d’Affaires and S2 that the daily situation was worsening and complained of minimal communication from S1 and uncertainty about her portfolio because S1 outsourced areas of her portfolio. Complainant added that S1 did not talk to her, make eye contact, or provide information. In response, the Chargé d’Affaires informed Complainant that “if a simple solution existed, it would have been found and acted upon immediately.” She assured Complainant that she was involved in daily meetings and discussions to find a solution.

On November 20, 2017, Agency officials informed Complainant that her rater would be changed from S1 to S2. Further, coordination between Complainant and S1 would be conducted through email. Finally, Complainant would continue to attend Senior Staff meetings.

On November 30, 2017, Complainant reported that S1 remained in a position “where she is exercising biased supervision and decision-making over my work.”

On December 13, 2017, Complainant filed an EEO complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against her on the basis of sex (pregnancy) when:

1. On October 15, 2017, Complainant’s work responsibilities were altered;

2. In October 2017, Complainant received written performance counseling; and

3. Complainant was subjected to a hostile work environment, characterized by, but not limited to inappropriate comments and being excluded from meetings and emails.

[…]
The Agency has already conceded in its final decision that Complainant established the first four elements of her prima facie hostile work environment case. The Agency held that Complainant failed to establish that it was liable for the hostile work environment, as it had established an affirmative defense. However, with respect to vicarious liability, element (5), the affirmative defense is not available to the Agency because we have found that S1’s actions culminated in a tangible employment action, changed worked duties.

Moreover, even if there was no tangible employment action, we find that the Agency failed to take prompt and effective action when it was notified of S1’s harassment of Complainant. While we acknowledge that the Agency initiated an informal investigation, counseled S1, and instituted a “carve-out” for evaluation purposes, we find that these actions were insufficient to meet the Agency’s full responsibility to take appropriate corrective action. ROI, at 500-501, 548-549, 599- 600, 621-623. Specifically, the Agency failed to fully remove S1 from supervisory authority over Complainant. According to counseling notes, it was S1 who stated that she did not want to rate Complainant and Agency officials initially encouraged S1 to work with Complainant despite the Agency’s contention that it did so at Complainant’s request. ROI, at 538-540. For example, on November 3, 2017, the Agency counseled S1 regarding her supervision of Complainant and instructed S1 to “provide regular guidance and coaching to help her develop professionally.” Id. at 538. The record further shows that S1 still exercised some level of control over Complainant’s work beyond November 2017 when the Agency changed Complainant’s rater.

For example, S2 “counseled [S1] to let Complainant know if there was action she should be taking that she was not” in December 2017. ROI, at 554. Even in January 2018, S1 continued to email Complainant in a supervisor capacity. Id. at 313-314. The record reflects that although S1 was removed from completing Complainant’s rating, S1 continued to harass Complainant. Complainant indicated that she reported the harassment, but it continued. Taking only some remedial action does not absolve the Agency of liability where that action is ineffective. Logsdon v. Dep’t of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120081287 (Apr. 23, 2009).

The Agency asserted that it further took detailed and effective action when Complainant was offered an alternative position, which she declined, as a solution to her concerns. However, remedial measures should not adversely affect the complainant and Complainant viewed the offer as punitive. Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors, EEOC Notice No. 915.002 (June 18, 1999), at 28-9. If it is necessary to separate the parties, then the harasser should be transferred (unless the complainant prefers otherwise). Id. The Agency did not move S1, despite requests from Complainant and S1, until April 2018 while Complainant was on maternity leave. We find that the Agency failed to take prompt and effective action. Accordingly, we find that the Agency is liable for S1’s harassment of Complainant. For the foregoing reasons, we find that Complainant has proven that she was discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment based on her sex as alleged.

CONCLUSION Based on a thorough review of the record and the contentions on appeal, including those not specifically addressed herein, we REVERSE the Agency’s final decision and REMAND the matter to the Agency for further processing in accordance with this decision and the ORDER below.

ORDER The Agency is ordered to take the following remedial action:

1. Within ninety (90) calendar days from the date this decision is issued, the Agency shall conduct a supplemental investigation of Complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages. The Agency is directed to inform Complainant about the legal standards associated with providing compensatory damages and give Complainant examples of the types of evidence used to support a claim for compensatory damages. Complainant shall be given 30 calendar days from the date she receives the Agency’s notice to provide all supporting evidence of her claim for compensatory damages. Within thirty (30) calendar days of the date the Agency receives Complainant’s submission, the Agency shall issue a new final decision determining Complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages, together with appropriate appeal rights.

2. Within ninety (90) days of the date this decision is issued, provide no less than eight (8) hours of appropriate in-person or interactive training to the management officials involved 9 2019001540 in this case regarding their obligations under Title VII with special emphasis on harassment and responding to claims of harassment. The Commission recommends that the Agency review the following EEOC publication: Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors (June 18, 1999).

3. The Agency shall consider taking disciplinary action against the responsible management officials. The Commission does not consider training to be disciplinary action. The Agency shall report its decision to the compliance officer. 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. If any of the responsible management officials have left the Agency’s employ, the Agency shall furnish documentation of their departure date(s).

4. Within thirty (30) days of the date this decision is issued, the Agency shall reinstate Complainant’s assignments changed by S1 and remove all documentation and references to the October 2017 written performance counseling from all personnel records, including Complainant’s official personnel files.

5. The Agency shall post a notice in accordance with the Posting Order below. The Agency is further 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 verifying that the corrective action has been implemented.

Read the full case here: Cecille W. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 2019001540 (Aug. 19, 2020).

###

What was the cause for “universal revulsion and anger” at one post?

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

Via FSGB Case No. 2020-009 | Interim Decision | February 4, 2021
Held –The Department of State (“Department) met its burden of proving that grievant committed one specification of Improper Personal Conduct, and one charge of Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct. The Department also established that the conduct showed poor judgment and lack of discretion, and that such misconduct had an impact upon the efficiency of the Service. The Department did not meet its burden of proving the charge of Inappropriate Comments and one specification of Improper Personal Conduct. The case was remanded to the Department to re- determine an appropriate consequence in light of the Board’s findings.
Case Summary – Grievant, a married Senior Foreign Service officer, while serving as Management Counselor at the U.S. Embassy REDACTED, was accused of sexual harassment based on inappropriate statements he reportedly made to female colleagues and conduct considered professionally improper. Grievant also appeared in a video published on a local website showing grievant and a local national woman seated together in the driver’s seat of a vehicle on a public road. The website article identified grievant as a foreign diplomat and commented on foreign diplomats and young host country women. Grievant later admitted to having an extramarital affair with the woman in the video, who was employed as a nanny by one of grievant’s subordinates. Grievant requested a voluntary curtailment because of the negative response by members of the embassy community concerning the video and to attend to a family illness.
The Department’s Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) investigated the sexual harassment allegations and forwarded its report to the Bureau of Human Resources (HR). Based on the findings of the S/OCR and after consideration of a description of the video showing grievant with the foreign national woman in the car, the Department proposed to suspend grievant for eight days without pay as discipline for Inappropriate Comments (three specifications), Improper Personal Conduct (two specifications), and Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct.
Grievant challenged the suspension proposal, however, it was sustained by the Department. After a grievance was denied, grievant appealed to the Foreign Service Grievance Board that found that the Department met its burden of proving that grievant committed one of two acts of Improper Personal Conduct and he engaged in Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct. The Board remanded the case to the Department for reconsideration of the proposed discipline in light of the Board’s decision.

Charge 3: Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct

The Department contends that grievant’s conduct, captured in the video which showed a young woman sitting in front of grievant in the driver’s seat while driving a car, had a negative impact upon mission morale. The Department noted that this video appeared on a popular local website and the existence of the video and its content were widely known within the mission. Grievant also admitted that he was having an extramarital affair with the woman who appeared with him in the video who was employed as a nanny for the family of one of grievant’s subordinates in the mission. The Department cites a statement by the CLO that both grievant’s family and the post family that employed the woman who appeared in the video were deeply affected. Grievant claims that his wife was aware of the relationship and argues that the video did not explicitly show his involvement in a sexual relationship. Nonetheless, the Department concluded that the video exposed the close relationship grievant was engaged in with the nanny of his subordinate, thereby embarrassing his colleagues, his family, and the mission.
[…]
With respect to the Charge of Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct, the Department notes that grievant admitted to having an extramarital affair with the woman in the video and the S/OCR report specifically corroborated that the video was publicized in the media in the host country. The Department argues that the physical closeness exhibited between grievant and the woman in the video, the nanny of one of his subordinates, and grievant’s admission that he was engaged in an affair with the woman, demonstrated his failure to maintain the high standard of conduct required of Foreign Service employees representing the U.S. abroad. The Department also points out that all new Foreign Service employees are briefed about their role representing the U.S. government abroad and the expectation that each maintain the highest standard of conduct demonstrating integrity, reliability and prudence whether at work or during their non- work hours. Further, the publication of the video resulted in embarrassment to others in the mission and disrupted grievant’s effectiveness as Management Counselor because his colleagues and supervisees refused to work with him. In fact, the Department points out that the publication of the video partially motivated grievant to request voluntary curtailment from post, thereby detrimentally affecting management operations at post.
[…]
Grievant maintains that the disciplinary action against him is unwarranted and that the statements upon which the charges and specifications are based are factually inaccurate and mischaracterized. He argues that the Department cannot meet its burden to establish that he engaged in Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct (Charge 3). Moreover, grievant argues that the proposed discipline is excessive for the alleged offenses, that the DO did not give adequate weight to several mitigating factors in his case, and that the penalty, therefore, is unreasonable.
[…]
Grievant maintains that the Department cannot meet its burden of proving that he engaged in Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct, as defined in the regulation. Grievant acknowledges that he did have an extramarital affair but maintains that it was discreet, not conducted publicly, not disgraceful but, instead, it was a meaningful relationship.

[…]
The FAM definition of notoriously disgraceful conduct is normative; that is, it is defined by the reaction to the conduct. In the instant matter, grievant is charged with engaging in an extra-marital affair with a local national woman, which was publicized by inference in a video on local media. Thus, grievant’s conduct is notoriously disgraceful because, were it widely known, it would embarrass or discredit him, the embassy, and the United States, or would subject them to censure or opprobrium. Grievant’s argument that the video was posted to a non- mainstream sensationalist website is unavailing, as the Department does not need to prove that grievant’s extramarital affair was in fact widely known or published by a widely-accessed medium, only that, if known, it would cause the concerns described in the regulation. In fact, though, the Department describes the internet website where the video was posted as popular and the record shows that it was sufficiently well-known that the embassy community quickly saw it, identified grievant and the nanny, and reacted negatively. Judging from the strong negative reaction, described by the Deputy Chief of Mission as “universal revulsion and anger,” we are satisfied that if evidence of the affair and the circumstances were widely known in the host country, a socially conservative country, the embassy and the United States would have been embarrassed and likely censured.
[…]
According to the S/OCR investigator, interviews with the Management staff revealed that the disclosure of the video made grievant’s “relationship with his subordinates irreparably bad [and] … brought forth a torrent of further negative reporting from across the mission about [grievant’s] behavior and his interpersonal skills.” Agency-Level Grievance Decision at 15. In the aftermath of the release of the video, grievant agreed to work from home and discontinued any contact with his subordinates or others at the embassy. Grievant also admitted that he ultimately voluntarily curtailed from post in part due to release of the video, even though the official rationale was listed as his mother’s health situation. The embassy had the unanticipated absence of a key senior official who supervised a large staff and provided administrative services to 15 U.S. government agencies. It is clear to the Board that the evidence supports the Department’s conclusion that grievant’s appearance in the video and his extramarital affair with a subordinate’s nanny led to his discredit as a senior embassy official within the mission and possibly in the wider community; adversely affected the embassy’s ability to carry out its responsibilities when grievant could no longer perform his job.

###

 

Oh Where, Oh Where Are the EEOC Posting Orders For Agency Discrimination?

According to the State Department, the mission of the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) (https://www.state.gov/bureaus-offices/bureaus-and-offices-reporting-directly-to-the-secretary/office-of-civil-rights/) is “to propagate fairness, equity and inclusion at the Department of State. S/OCR’s business is conflict resolution, employee and supervisor assistance, and diversity management. S/OCR manages the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) administrative process for the Department and works to prevent employment discrimination through outreach and training.”
When an employee prevails in a complaint before the EEOC, the federal agency where the discrimination occured is typically ordered by the EEOC to post copies of the notice of discrimination signed by the agency’s authorized representative. It’s kind of an equivalent to a student being ordered by his/her teacher to write on the entire blackboard “I will not [INSERT] again.”  The EEOC normally requires that the notice be posted in the facility in hard copy and electronic copy.
Click here for the EEOC order posted by Energy Department’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity.  Here is one from USPS. Another one from the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The orders have one thing in common, an acknowledgement by the agency’s authorized representative that the facility was determined by the EEOC to have engaged in discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any other form discrimination. The notice does not specifically include the names of the complainant, only a quick summary of the case and the remedy ordered by the EEOC.
Not too many State Department cases prevail at the EEOC but when they do, we expect to see the posting orders visible in public and easily accessible to everyone. We have yet to see them anywhere. We have never, ever seen them posted on the pretty bare bones page of S/OCR on state.gov.  If they are posted on the Intranet SBU site only, is that the best that the State Department’s office tasked with preventing employment discrimination can do? Wouldn’t you want everybody to see it so folks learn from it and do not repeat the same behavior elsewhere in the organization?
For example, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation’s EEOC-ordered Notice says:

“This facility was found to have violated the Rehabilitation Act. The facility was ordered to reinstate the employee, provide reasonable accommodation for his disability, determine backpay and benefits, as well as compensatory damages and attorney’s fees and costs. The facility was also ordered to consider taking disciplinary action against management officials and provide training to responsible management official’s regarding their responsibilities under EEO law.”

In January 2018, the EEOC ordered the State Department to post such a notice at FSI (see @StateDept to Hold “Harassment in the Workplace” Session But First, Read This FSI Sexual Harassment Case).  We’d like to know if anyone saw the paper copy or electronic copy of that EEOC order posted at FSI’s School of Language Studies? Is it archived? (Update 11/16/20 9:40 pm PST: A senior official who was at FSI during this time confirmed to us that this order was posted “on the bulletin board directly outside the entrance to the Dean’s office suite” and that it stayed up for a couple of months. Thanks Senior Official A!). 
Folks, we need your help locating these posting orders. Where are they posted? At S/OCR’s bulletin board? At their Intranet page? How visible are these notices? Are they accessible by GO browser or any other browser or do you need a special key to get into a room to read these notices?

U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20507

NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES POSTED BY ORDER OF THE EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION
An Agency of the United States Government

This Notice is posted pursuant to an order by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dated ___________________ which found that a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., has occurred at the Department of State’s offices in Washington, District of Columbia (hereinafter this facility).

Federal law requires that there be no discrimination against any employee or applicant for employment because of the person’s RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, SEX, NATIONAL ORIGIN, AGE, or DISABILITY with respect to hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, or other terms, conditions or privileges of employment. This facility was found to have engaged in discrimination on the basis of sex/female with respect to a promotion matter, constituting a violation of Title VII.
/snip/

State/OIG Releases Long-Awaited Report on @StateDept Handling of Sexual Harassment Reports

On October 2, 2020, State/OIG released its long-awaited report on the State Department handling of sexual harassment, including sexual assault reports in the agency. The IG reviewed the extent to which employees report sexual harassment, how the agency addresses reports, and the extent that State ensures consistent outcomes for individuals found to have engaged in such harassment.
The report notes that both Acting IG Stephen Akard, and his replacement, Acting IK Matthew Klimow “recused themselves from this review and delegated final clearance authority to Deputy IG Diana Shaw.” It looks like this review as initiated by State/OIG in early 2018. The report says that the issuance of this report was delayed because of “the lapse in OIG’s appropriation that occurred from December 21, 2018, through January 25, 2019, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting operational challenges.” We’re curious what happened to this report after the shutdown in January 2019 and before the pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020.
The Office of Civil Rights’ (S/OCR) response to this IG report is dated August 24, 2020; DGHR’s response is dated September 8, 2020.
Sexual harassment, generally a violation of civil laws, while sexual assault usually a reference to criminal acts (penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape; attempted rape; forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetration of the perpetrator’s body; fondling or unwanted sexual touching.
Within State, per 3 FAM 1711.2 says sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment.  Per 3 FAM 1712.2-4, S/OCR has the responsibility for investigating or overseeing investigations of alleged sexual harassment, which may include sexual assault. OIG report notes that it does not generally investigate claims of sexual harassment itself because OCR is specifically designated in the FAM as the responsible entity for investigating alleged sexual harassment. If the allegations rise to the level of a sexual assault, S/OCR will refer the allegations to DS/DO/OSI.
This report is distressing to read, and the underreporting is understandable. Of the 24 cases where misconduct allegations including sexual assaults were substantiated, we don’t know how many were criminally charged. One? None?

(font in blue, lifted from the report)

Office of Civl Rights (S/OCR), Office of Special Investigations (DS/OSI), and Conduct, Suitability, and Discipline Division (GTM/CSD)

      • lacks coordination guidance
      • lacks inter-operability of reporting systems
      • tracking system sucks
      • lacks updated supervisory guides
      • lacks data on the consistency of investigative and disciplinary processes
      • lack timeliness standards 

“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.

S/OCR investigated just 22% of complaints for possible violations of Department policy

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.

Top Five Bureaus and Posts With the Highest Number of Sexual Harassment Complaints From 2014 to 2017

      • Consular Affairs
      • Diplomatic Security
      • US Embassy Baghdad, Iraq
      • US Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan
      • Foreign Service Institute

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.

Top Five Sexual Assault Complaints by Regional Bureau From 2014 to 2017

      • South and Central Asian Affairs
      • European and Eurasian Affairs
      • Near Eastern Affairs
      • East Asian and Pacific Affairs
      • Western Hemisphere Affairs
      • African Affairs
      • Domestic

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.

Reporting on sexual harassment (63%) and sexual assaults (71%) are up but there are concerns of significant underreporting

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.

For overseas employees, a bigger challenge

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.

Underreporting due to lack of confidence in its resolution, fear of retaliation

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.

Lack of protection for complainants

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.

“Corridor Reputation”

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.”

Advised Against Reporting Sexual Harassment

…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.

Intake until Final Action: Length Varied from 139 days to 1,705 days

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 Actions for Selected Cases Ranged from No Action to Suspension

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.

2010-2020! Hello!

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.

State/IG surveyed 2000 randomly selected employees and got a 27% response rate

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:

 

OIG Issues Recommendation For US Embassy London: EUR Says Nah! Y’all Can Just View Workplace Harassment Videos

The long awaited OIG report on US Embassy London was finally released on August 12 (PDF). The inspection was conducted from September 3 to December 9, 2019. Copies of the draft report were furnished to “Department stakeholders” including the EUR bureau and the US Embassy in London. The report does not say when this draft report was sent out for comments. It also does not indicate if it sent a copy of this draft report to the Under Secretary for Management and Pompeo BFF Brian Bulatao. The State Department left a Senior Bureau official in EUR to respond on behalf of State Department Management.
Late April. According to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), the inspection report went to US Embassy London for comment (see Watchdog Firing Came Amid Probe of Trump’s Friend, the U.S. Ambassador in London).
On Friday, May 15, 2020,  the Senate-confirmed OIG Steve Linick was fired  (Trump to fire State/OIG Steve Linick who is reportedly investigating Pompeo). NYT reported that Linick has been locked out of his office, despite a law mandating a 30-day waiting period for Congress to raise objections.
May 15, 2020, the President appointed Stephen Akard as Acting Inspector General (PDF).
On May 27, 2020, the US Ambassador to London Woody Johnson wrote a memo to the OIG Assistant Inspector General for Inspections Sandra Lewis in response to the draft report.
June 4, 2020: Acting OIG Stephen Akard informed Congress that he stepped away from OFM operations and is recused on “all matters related to OFM”, “matters I worked on”, and matters involving individuals he know personally (PDF).
On July 1, 2020, the EUR Bureau’s Senior Official Philip Reeker (they’ve given up on having a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary) responded to the draft report according to State/OIG.  Reeker’s memo sent to State/OIG Sandra Lewis , appended to the OIG report, does not include the date it was written, and contains just one paragraph in response to OIG’s Recommendation 1. The EUR bureau did not even bother to respond to OIG Recommendation 9 related to the $31.5 million deficit in the the defined benefit pension plan for the LE staff of US Mission London.
August 5, 2020: Politico reported that Acting OIG Stephen Akard has resigned and not expected to return to the office for the remainder of the week.
August 7, 2020: Acting Inspector General Stephen Akard officially resigned from his position (PDF).
On August 12, 2020, State/OIG under Acting IG – Diana R. Shaw (deputy to Linick, then Akard) released its report of US Embassy London, omits from its front page summary the topics that merited the longest response from both the EUR bureau and the ambassador. Should be interesting to see what that draft report looked like. Excerpt below from publicly available OIG report (PDF):

Tone at the Top and Standards of Conduct

The Chief of Mission, a first time, non-career ambassador, arrived in August 2017 and presented his credentials to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in November 2017. From New Jersey, he was a businessman and philanthropist. The DCM, a career Senior Foreign Service officer, arrived in January 2019 following an assignment as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Egypt and North Africa. Prior to that, she had multiple domestic and overseas assignments, principally in or involving the Near East.

When the Ambassador arrived at Embassy London in late summer 2017, he assumed responsibility from the previous DCM who had served as Chargé d’Affaires for approximately 7 months. OIG learned that the relationship between the Ambassador and the former DCM deteriorated during the year that they worked together, affecting mission morale and ending in the DCM’s reassignment. Based on interviews with embassy staff, OIG concluded that the Ambassador did not always model the Department’s leadership and management principles as contained in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214 and, in particular, 3 FAM 1214b(4) and (6) regarding communication and self-awareness. For example, some embassy staff told OIG that when the Ambassador was frustrated with what he interpreted to be excessive staff caution or resistance to suggestions about which he felt strongly, he sometimes questioned their intentions or implied that he might have them replaced. This caused staff to grow wary of providing him with their best judgment. With the arrival of the current DCM, chosen by the Ambassador, staff generally reported to OIG that they saw better communication from the Front Office and an increased confidence from the Ambassador in the mission’s staff.

OIG also found that some staff were impacted by the Ambassador’s demanding, hard driving work style and it had a negative effect on morale in some embassy sections. In addition, OIG learned, through employee questionnaires and interviews, that the Ambassador sometimes made inappropriate or insensitive comments on topics generally considered Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)-sensitive, such as religion, sex, or color. According to 3 FAM 1526.1, offensive or derogatory comments, based on an individual’s race, color, sex, or religion, can create an offensive working environment and could potentially rise to a violation of EEO laws. Based on the information that OIG learned during the inspection, and pursuant to the requirements in 3 FAM 1526.2, a more thorough review by the Department is warranted.

Recommendation 1:

The Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, in coordination with the Office of Civil Rights, should assess the Chief of Mission’s compliance with Department Equal Employment Opportunity or leadership policies and based on the results of the review, take appropriate action. (Action: EUR, in coordination with S/OCR)

Washington interlocutors plus “coffee and donuts”

At the time of the inspection, OIG interviews indicated that both the Ambassador and the DCM modeled 3 FAM 1214 attributes of strategic planning and decisiveness. The Ambassador advised the embassy staff on the importance of spending U.S. taxpayer monies wisely, and he and the DCM practiced proper procedures with respect to receipt of gifts. Both mission employees and Washington interlocutors told OIG the Ambassador was reaching out to U.S. direct-hire and LE staff in an effort to know them better, to convey his appreciation for their work, and to continue to familiarize himself with the many aspects of the complex, multiagency mission he was leading. OIG also learned of several efforts by the Ambassador to engage with his staff, including an event at his residence, Winfield House, for LE staff with 30 years or more of service. He also invited staff to join him for informal “coffee and donuts” gatherings in the embassy. Staff and senior Washington interlocutors told OIG they were encouraged by the constructive and effective partnership formed between the Ambassador and the DCM.

Johnson’s Response to Recommendation 1, May 27, 2020 Memo to OIG:

During my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom and indeed for the entirety of my professional life, I have respected both the law and the spirit of EEO principles and have ensured that all employees under my direction do the same. If I have unintentionally offended anyone in the execution of my duties, I deeply regret that, but I do not accept that I have treated employees with disrespect or discriminated in any way. My objective is to lead the highly talented team at Mission UK to execute the President’s policies and to do so in a way that is respectful of our differences, with zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. I believe that team cohesion in our mission is better than ever and as is stated in the OIG report’s narrative, that I have taken extensive measures to get to know all of the staff and thank them for their contributions. I am especially proud of how the Mission UK team has handled these challenging times of COVID-19.

In order to address the concerns documented in your report, perceived or real, I have reviewed an S/OCR course on discrimination in the workplace and have instructed the entire Mission UK country team to do the same, with 100% compliance by the end of May. I respectfully disagree with Recommendation 1 and ask that the OIG consider the absence of any official complaints against me during my three year tenure and the generally positive tone of the OIG report on Mission UK before including the recommendation in the final report and concluding that my actions have negatively affected morale.

Management Response (State/EUR) to Recommendation 1, Memo to OIG:

In its July 1, 2020,2 response, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs disagreed with this recommendation. The bureau stated, that given the concern expressed, the Ambassador has viewed the Office of Civil Rights video on workplace harassment and has instructed all section and agency heads to do the same. He has also encouraged all staff to take the Foreign Service Institute training on mitigating unconscious bias. The bureau also represented that the Ambassador “is well aware of his responsibility to set the right tone for his mission and we believe his actions demonstrate that.” Accordingly, the bureau reported it did not believe a formal assessment was required, but proposed that, in coordination with the embassy, it would instead work with the Office of Civil Rights to provide advice and additional training to all staff, including the Chief of Mission, to heighten awareness on these important issues.

Here is the full undated response from the bureau via State/OIG:

OIG Reply to EUR’s response: SIR! Have you meet your obligations under 3 FAM 1526.2, SIR?

OIG considers the recommendation unresolved. OIG acknowledges the actions that the mission has taken with regard to training of staff and the stated bureau proposal to work with the Office of Civil Rights to provide advice and additional training to all staff. These actions, however, do not address the recommendation which calls for an assessment of Chief of Mission compliance with Department Equal Employment Opportunity or leadership policies. The recommendation can be closed when OIG receives and accepts documentation that the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs has met its obligations under 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1526.2.

Read on:
3 FAM 1526.2 The Department’s Responsibilities Under This Policy
[Under 3 FAM 1520 – NON-DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF RACE, COLOR, NATIONAL ORIGIN, SEX, OR RELIGION]
(CT:PER-631;   12-14-2010)
(State) (Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

a. If the Department receives an allegation of discriminatory harassment, or has reason to believe such harassment is occurring, it will take the steps necessary to ensure that the matter is promptly investigated and addressed.  If the allegation is determined to be credible, the Department will take immediate and effective measures to end the unwelcome behavior.  The Department is committed to taking action if it learns of possible discriminatory harassment, even if the individual does not wish to file a formal complaint.

b. The Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) is the main contact point for questions or concerns about discriminatory harassment.  S/OCR is responsible for investigating or overseeing investigations of alleged discriminatory harassment.  S/OCR is committed to ensuring that all investigations are conducted in a prompt, thorough, and impartial manner.

c.  Supervisors and other responsible Department officials who observe, are informed of, or reasonably suspect incidents of possible discriminatory harassment must immediately report such incidents to S/OCR, which will either initiate or oversee a prompt investigation.  Failure to report such incidents to S/OCR will be considered a violation of this policy and may result in disciplinary action.

d. S/OCR will provide guidance as needed on investigating and handling the potential harassment.  Supervisors should take effective measures to ensure no further apparent or alleged harassment occurs pending completion of an investigation.

e. 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).  The Department will also take the necessary steps to protect from retaliation those employees who in good faith report incidents of potential discriminatory harassment.  It is a violation of both Federal law and this policy to retaliate against someone who has reported unlawful harassment.  Violators may be subject to discipline.

f.  Employees who have been found by the Department to have discriminatorily harassed others may be subject to discipline or other appropriate management action.  Discipline will be appropriate to the circumstances, ranging from a letter of reprimand to suspensions without pay to separation for cause.  A verbal or written admonishment, while not considered formal discipline, may also be considered.

So, who you gonna call? 
Dammit, the Ghostbusters!

 

Sexual Harassment in the Federal Government: Public Comments #FedMeToo

 

This is a follow-up to our posts on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’s  examination of sexual harassment in the federal government.  The Commission specifically examined agency-level practices to address sexual harassment at the U.S. Department of State and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) says that the testimony from their May 2019 briefing and public comments “will inform” their 2020 report “to Congress, the President, and the American people regarding the federal government’s response to sexual harassment in the federal workplace.”
USCCR has now made available the public comments sent to the Commission.
Note that S/OCR is one of those offices that report directly to the Secretary of State,
Also, left on its own, we don’t think the State Department would willingly release the victims of harassment, discrimination or assaults from the Non Disclosure Agreements signed.  It is left to the U.S. Congress to mandate such a release, as well as require the Department to make public the cost of these taxpayer funded-settlements each fiscal year.
Individual 2: FSO-01 with 17 years in the Foreign Service and six years of active duty in the U.S. Military

 

Individual 3: Retired FSO (2006-2017) with 16 co-signers

 

Individual 5: FSO for Locally Employed Staff

FSO, assault survivor

Senior Litigator at the Justice Department, stalked by supervisor for over a year
Related posts:

USCCR will accept public comments by an anonymous author in #sexualharassment inquiry

Help Fund the Blog Diplopundit 2019 — 60-Day Campaign from June 5, 2019 – August 5, 2019

______________________________________

 

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:

The US Commission on Civil Rights will accept public comments by an anonymous author. In regard to the application of non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) the Commission cannot provide legal advice. We recommend that an individual who is a party to an NDA consult an attorney.

As far as what our investigation entails we are looking at 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 investigation and subsequent report will also examine agency-level practices to address sexual harassment at the U.S. Department of State and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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@StateDept’s Mandatory Harassment Training Overview (Video)

Posted: 3:17 am ET

 

Below is an unlisted video uploaded on February 2, 2018 by the “DMO Team” (?) that talks about the Mandatory Harassment Training ordered by Secretary Tillerson at the State Department. The presenter is Pamela Britton, an Attorney-Adviser from the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) at the State Department.

Around the 22 minute mark, the presenter talks about the reporting trends on harassment – saying that it has increased dramatically over the past four years FY2014 (235), FY2015 (320), FY2016 (365), FY2017 (483) but also notes that S/OCR “does not believe that the number of reports are equivalent to the number of actual behavior increasing” or that there’s “an uptick in poor behavior.”  They’re tying the increase in reporting “to the fact that people are now more informed of what to do, how to report, and what should be reported.” Supervisors are reportedly now better informed of their mandatory reporting requirement. Also that there is less tolerance for behavior that may have been tolerated 20 years ago. One more thing to note. Majority of reports are reportedly from overseas, and a significant number of alleged harassers are at the GS-14/FS-02 and higher ranking employees.

This video also cites two EEOC cases from DHS and the U.S. Navy. Whoever put this video together somehow forgot the sexual harassment case at FSI that S/OCR determined was not a sexual harassment case, but where the EEOC eventually found the State Department liable: @StateDept to Hold “Harassment in the Workplace” Session But First, Read This FSI Sexual Harassment Case). And here’s another one: Sexual Assault at a State Dept-Leased Apartment: If This Isn’t Abysmal Failure, What Is It?

 

According to the description posted with this video, on January 12, 2018, Secretary Tillerson mandated all American direct-hire employees receive harassment awareness training within 90 days (by April 12). The Bureau of Human Resources (HR) and the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) have made the following video available to ensure that all employees can comply. To ensure accountability with this requirement, all Assistant Secretaries, Chiefs of Mission, Charges, and Principal Officers must certify that all American, direct-hire employees under their supervision have received the training, via memo for domestic employees and front-channel cable for employees stationed abroad. In addition, the Foreign Service Institute, in coordination with S/OCR and HR, will reportedly develop an online harassment awareness-training course, which will be available later in 2018. All locally employed staff, personal services contractors and contractors will be held accountable for completing this on-line training by December 31, 2018.

The video posted says that for questions, please email SOCR_Direct@state.gov. If you would like to report an instance of harassment, please use the reporting link http://socr.state.sbu/OCR/Default.asp…. (links to Intranet site). If you do not have intranet access, folks may send an email to the aforementioned address or call 202-647-9295.

With regards to the harassment training, note that the EEOC in 2016 put out a Report of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace (June 2016), which find that much of the harassment training done over the last 30 years has been ineffective in preventing harassment. See https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/report.cfm,

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EEOC Awards $60K For USNATO Brussels’ Failure to “Reasonably Accommodate” @StateDept Employee

Posted: 2:36 am ET

 

Via eeoc.gov/vol 1/FY18:

Commission Increased Award of Damages to $60,000. The Commission previously affirmed the Agency’s finding that it failed to reasonably accommodate Complainant. Following an investigation of Complainant’s claim for damages, the Agency awarded Complainant $10,500 in non-pecuniary damages. On appeal, the Commission affirmed the Agency’s decision not to award pecuniary damages, finding insufficient documentary proof to support such an award. The Commission, however, increased the award of non-pecuniary damages to $60,000. The Agency conceded that Complainant established a nexus between the harm he sustained and the discrimination. The record evidence confirmed that over a three-year period, Complainant experienced an exacerbation of his pre-existing conditions caused by stress created by the Agency’s discriminatory actions. Complainant stated that he experienced anxiety, irritability, insomnia and loss of consortium, and indicated that he did not go out socially. He also noted that he experienced headaches, and night sweats, and was forced to increase his medication when the Agency refused to accommodate him. The evidence supported Complainant’s assertion that his condition had stabilized prior to the discrimination, and the Agency was liable for the worsening of Complainant’s condition. Irvin W. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 0120141773 (Oct. 28, 2016).

Here is a quick summary of the case:

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as an Information Management Specialist at the Agency’s U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium.  On September 11, 2009, Complainant filed an EEO complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against him on the basis of disability (Sjogrens Syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Anxiety) when the Agency failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation of his disability. After an investigation, Complainant requested the Agency issued a final decision.  In its decision, the Agency found Complainant established he was subjected to discrimination when he was denied an accommodation.  As relief, the Agency ordered that Complainant be provided with a reasonable accommodation. On July 14, 2011, Complainant appealed the decision, and we affirmed the Agency’s finding on liability, and remanded the matter to the Agency so that it could conduct a supplementary investigation into Complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages.  After conducting an investigation, the Agency issued its decision on March 12, 2014 awarding Complainant $10,500.00 in non-pecuniary damages. Specifically, the Agency found that Complainant’s pre-existing condition was largely the cause of Complainant’s physical and emotional distress during this time, and that the amount awarded was meant to compensate Complainant for the worsening of that condition.  The Agency disagreed with Complainant’s claim that his condition had stabilized by the time he arrived in Brussels, as evidence revealed he was still on a large dosage of steroids in July 2008, weeks before he began working.  Although Complainant alleged that he suffered from a loss of bone density (Osteopenia) as a result of his long term steroid use, the Agency determined that there was insufficient evidence that this was as a result of the discrimination.  Furthermore, although Complainant suffered emotional distress related to the discrimination, such distress occurred prior to his request for reasonable accommodation, which the Agency could not be held liable for.  In sum, the Agency concluded that Complainant’s condition was inherently unpredictable, and accordingly, his symptoms were unrelated to the discrimination itself.  Accordingly, the Agency concluded that $10,500.00 was an appropriate amount to compensate Complainant for the emotional distress he suffered.  The Agency declined to award any pecuniary damages in response to Complainant’s request.  This appeal followed.
[…]
Based upon the evidence provided by Complainant, we find the Agency’s award of $10,500.00 to be inadequate to remedy the harm caused by the Agency.  The Commission notes that record evidence confirmed that over a three year period, Complainant experienced an exacerbation of his pre-existing conditions for which he sought treatment caused by the stress created by the Agency’s discriminatory actions.  Complainant asserts that he suffered from anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and loss of consortium.  He maintains he did not go out socially, and suffered from headaches, night sweats and loss of bone density.  Most notably, he states he had tapered down his steroid dosage prior to reporting to Brussels, but was forced to increase the medication when the Agency refused to provide him with an accommodation of his disability.  We find the evidence supports Complainant’s position that his condition had stabilized and thus, the Agency is liable for the worsening of his condition. The Commission finds that an award of $60,000.00 is reasonable under the circumstances. See Complainant v. Dep’t of Transp., EEOC Appeal No. 0720140022 (Sept. 16, 2015) (Complainant awarded $60,000.00 where Agency’s failure to accommodate resulted in depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and exacerbation of existing symptoms); Complainant v. Soc. Sec. Admin., EEOC Appeal No. 0720130013 (Aug. 14, 2014) (Complainant awarded $60,000.00 where Agency’s failure to accommodate resulted in exacerbation of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, stress, and elevated blood pressure); Henery v. Dep’t of the Navy, EEOC Appeal No. 07A50034 (Sept. 22, 2005) ($65,000.00 awarded where Complainant suffered from frustration, negativity, and loss of sleep for a four-year period, as well as physical pain associated with the resulting excessive walking. The discrimination caused significant increase in Complainant’s need for medical treatment, as well as an increase in physical and emotional harm). The Commission finds that this amount takes into account the severity of the harm suffered and his pre-existing condition, and is also consistent with prior Commission precedent. Finally, the Commission finds this award is not “monstrously excessive” standing alone, is not the product of passion or prejudice, and is consistent with the amount awarded in similar cases.  See Jackson v. U.S. Postal Serv., EEOC Appeal No. 01972555 (Apr. 15, 1999) (citing Cygnar v. City of Chicago, 865 F. 2d 827, 848 (7th Cir. 1989)).

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