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Suit alleges GPO allowed employee harassment for race, gender at bindery

News outlets report that on Oct. 17, 2023, Government Printing Office (GPO) employees filed a federal lawsuit in the District of Columbia alleging severe, illegal workplace harassment, a type of employment discrimination.

A new federal lawsuit makes shocking allegations of workplace harassment at the library bindery of the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) in the District of Columbia. According to Government Executive, plaintiffs are three current and former GPO employees suing the agency’s director Hugh Halpern and a former co-worker who allegedly harassed others for years by promoting Nazi and white supremist ideals at work as well as by expressing racist commentary and openly displaying sexually explicit materials.

Plaintiffs reportedly lodged a complaint within the agency first but filed the lawsuit when agency action was not forthcoming.

Examples of harassing behavior at work mentioned in the article include:

  • Giving out antisemitic writings
  • Leaving out on his desk Nazi literature and propaganda
  • Using the Nazi salute
  • Wearing white supremacist tattoos
  • Sending out links to Holocaust-denying films
  • Making sexist, racist and pro-Hitler remarks
  • Drawing sexually explicit pictures on government property
  • Displaying a sexually explicit sculpture
  • Having pornography at work
  • And others

The GPO employee-plaintiffs also allege that when they reported the offensive behavior, agency management took no action and even urged them to keep quiet about the subject. Even the bindery supervisor allegedly made racist and sexist remarks.

Apparently, Director Halpern did release a memorandum to everyone in the GPO in March 2023, encouraging them to report misconduct and that he was aware of workers targeting colleagues “based on their gender or racial or ethnic backgrounds.”

Plaintiffs, one of whom is female and one who is Jewish, assert that the GPO had to have known about the discriminatory conduct because the offensive behavior was “open and notorious,” notes Government Executive. One of them left the agency out of fear after having allegedly received threats from his harasser of physical harm and then having been denied leave by the agency.

The complaint requests reimbursement for work hours missed in response to the harassment as well as an order for a new agency employee training program and a new internal complaint procedure.

Legal remedies

Anyone experiencing illegal harassment or discrimination based on a protected classification like race, religion, gender, age, disability and others should speak with an experienced attorney as early as possible. Legal counsel can provide guidance and advice about how to report misconduct as well as taking further legal action further like a possible internal agency complaint, a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a lawsuit or other remedial actions.