For many federal employees, the #MeToo era is yet to arrive
This article looks at the delays in justice federal employees who are victims of sexual harassment face.
The #MeToo movement has been a major topic in the news recently, with multiple high-profile men forced to resign in the wake of accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. For federal employees, many of whom say they have been victims of workplace harassment and discrimination, justice has not been quite as swift. As the Washington Post reports, thanks to budget cuts and an often slow administrative process, many federal workers who file sexual harassment complaints find they have to wait years before their cases are resolved.
Sexual harassment at government agencies
Federal agencies, just like private workplaces, are hardly exempt from the problem of sexual harassment. A recent report by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, for example, found that close to 21 percent of women in federal government workplaces had experienced sexual harassment in the previous two years prior to 2016. The most common form of sexual harassment experienced by women was unwanted invasion of personal space, followed by unwelcome exposure to sexually oriented conversations, and unwelcome sexual jokes, teasing, questions, or comments.
The way victims responded to such harassment showed that in the vast majority of cases filing a formal complaint was a last resort. The study showed that 61 percent of victims chose to avoid their harassers, while 59 percent of victims asked their harassers to stop their behavior. Only 11 percent of victims ultimately filed a formal complaint.
Complaint process can be slow
For the relatively small number of formal complainants, however, getting justice can be a slow and frustrating process. Federal workers can only file a lawsuit against their harassers after they have undergone an administrative process. That administrative process, unfortunately, can take years to complete. For example, as the Washington Post reports, while half of EEOC discrimination complaints are resolved within three months, the rest of the complaints take, on average, three and a half years to resolve.
Employment law experts say that the problem is due to a lack of funding and understaffing at agencies like the EEOC that handle harassment and discrimination complaints. In fact, the federal government, which is the largest employer in the country, was once considered to be at the forefront for its ability to address sexual harassment. However, in recent years, private employers, especially in response to the #MeToo movement, have moved ahead of the federal government in their efforts at combating sexual harassment.
Representation for federal workers
Federal workers who may have been victims of harassment or discrimination deserve justice. However, the administrative process can be slow and cumbersome. That is why anybody who has been victimized in the workplace should talk to a federal employment law attorney for help. An experienced attorney can represent clients throughout the complaint process and help them negotiate a resolution to their case.