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Even The Justice Department Is Mishandling Sexual Harassment, Report Finds

posted Jun 5, 2017, 2:30 PM by Resty Manapat

Lawyers in the civil division who reportedly stalked and groped female colleagues got off pretty easy — even getting awards for their performance.  

Even the Justice Department is failing to enforce anti-sexual harassment policies, reveals a new report by the DOJ’s internal watchdog, which investigated the agency’s civil division.  

Despite having a so-called “zero tolerance” policy for sexual misconduct, the civil division failed to appropriately discipline lawyers for egregious behavior ― including a male lawyer who secretly watched his colleagues while they pumped breast milk, one who stalked a woman co-worker, and another senior lawyer who physically groped his colleagues at an office happy hour, the report finds.  

The department declined to suspend the man, who grabbed the breasts and buttocks of two female trial lawyers, because that “would unnecessarily deprive the government of [the senior official’s] litigating services,” the department official who made the decision told the Justice Department’s Inspector General.  

All of these men later received awards for their good performance in the division, the report notes.  

Problems with handling sexual misconduct, including lax enforcement and tracking, likely extend to the entire Justice Department, Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote in a separate memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He recommends the DOJ come up with more consistent enforcement policies around sexual harassment ― at the very least prohibiting rewarding sexual harassers ― and is asking the department for a response within the next 60 days.  

The investigation of the civil division, released Thursday, examined about a dozen sexual harassment and misconduct claims reported between 2011 and the first half of 2016, at the department’s civil division, which employs 1,400 workers, mostly lawyers, who handle lawsuits filed against, and on behalf of, the federal government. During that period, the Justice Department was headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and then later by Loretta Lynch.  

Though relatively few harassment cases were reported in the civil division ― the report looked at nine claims and found two more that went unreported ― they were handled badly and tracked poorly, the investigation reveals.  

A couple of years ago, the office of the Inspector General also turned up sexual misconduct at the Drug Enforcement Administration, another department under the DOJ’s umbrella. That report detailed drug-cartel funded sex-parties with prostitutes attended by DEA agents, none of whom were fired. Some were even promoted. After the conduct came to light, however, the head of the DEA ultimately resigned, facing bipartisan criticism ― the misconduct went back to the years of former President George W. Bush.  

Thursday’s report offers a rare detailed glimpse into how organizations can fail to properly deal with sexual harassment claims, an issue that’s gained increasing attention after well-publicized incidents inside Fox News, at the ride-hailing company Uber and, of course, involving President Donald Trump have come to light over the past few years.  

Trump was accused of harassing more than a dozen women, and he even was caught on tape bragging about sexual misconduct. He faced no consequences.  

The senior civil division lawyer also got off fairly easily. The lawyer, a supervisor, had been reprimanded before for sending sexually tinged emails to co-workers.  

After an internal investigation confirmed the harassment occurred, he was given a written reprimand, and his supervisory duties were stripped away. He was then transferred to another office, where no one was told about his track record. His pay didn’t change.  

And although his conduct may have been criminal, the report notes, officials in the department did not refer the case to outside law enforcement.  

The case “demonstrates an inadequate appreciation by the civil division of the Department’s zero tolerance policy,” write the report’s authors.  

In an addendum to the investigation, the civil division acknowledged that it had a problem handling sexual misconduct and says that it has resolved its issues with handling sexual harassment by hiring someone who specializes in employee relations. It added it was improving the methods it uses for tracking sexual harassment claims and clarifying its policies and its disciplinary procedures to workers.  

The DOJ “strives to maintain a culture free of harassment and other misconduct for all of our 115,000 employees,” Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein said in a statement in response to the report.  

“It is fortunate that there are relatively few substantiated incidents of sexual harassment, but even one incident is too many,” he added. “We will review the Inspector General’s recommendations and consider whether additional guidance is required to ensure that all misconduct allegations are handled appropriately, in support of our goal of a workplace in which everyone is treated fairly.” 

 

Source: The Huffington Post 

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