In the last year, sexual misconduct in the workplace has taken center stage. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women have spoken up to demand safety and comfort in their environments. While this has been beneficial for employees across industries, one group has been left behind-civil servants. Today, one and five women working for our government experience sexual harassment, while just eight percent believe corrective action was taken against their abuser. Our civil service functions with little accountability and few protections for employees speaking out against wrongdoing. This creates a system that protects abusers and silences victims on the taxpayer’s dime.
In an effort to protect employees from wrongful termination, union litigation has made the process for removing poor performing employees timely and complex. While this was meant to protect employees, it has actually protected toxic and abusive employees.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, private sector employers have become more aware of sexual misconduct. It has caused industries to quickly remove employees labeled as abusers. In the public sector, it is so difficult to remove public sector employees. Because of this, managers instead opt to transfer bad employees to a different area of the agency.
Unfortunately, moving the problem does not solve the problem. It only increases the number of victims.
An October 2017 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report concluded that a lack of clear and consistent guidelines for handling sexual misconduct left employees vulnerable to punishment while abusers were easily protected.
The report provides a case study from the National Park Service (NPS). It explains, “On June 14, 2016, the Committee held a hearing on oversight of the NPS… The investigation followed complaints from 13 current and former NPS employees from the River District. They wrote to then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and submitted declarations describing incidents taking place over a period of 15 years, which they believed showed evidence of ‘discrimination, retaliation, and a sexually hostile work environment.’ The OIG investigation corroborated the claims of the complainants and found evidence of a long-term pattern of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment in the [Grand Canyon National Park’s] River District. It also identified an additional 22 other individuals who reported experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment and hostile work environments while working in the River District.”