The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs recently called out the Veterans Affairs (VA) office for its failure to properly address sexual harassment within the agency. The public scolding was part of a letter published online on The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman’s website.
Why did lawmakers feel the need to publish the letter? The letter comes after a report last year that 26% of women and 14% of men reported instances of sexual harassment. The report concludes that the VA has the highest rate of sexual harassment of employees compared to any other federal agency.
The published letter was likely an attempt to call attention to the VA’s failings and provide incentive for the agency to address the problem and implement changes.
How can the VA address this problem? The group provides some advice. Examples include:
- Train. The group is pushing the agency to provide better training on sexual harassment with employees and contractors. The group notes the agency has done a better job offering training, but that the training is not currently mandatory.
- Monitor. Lawmakers have also encouraged the VA to do a better job monitoring and addressing complaints of sexual harassment. Currently, reporting is done at a local level. This makes it difficult to hold facilities that fail to provide a safe working environment accountable for instances of sexual harassment.
What about victims of sexual harassment? Federal employees that are victims of sexual harassment have options. These employees can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to hold their abuser accountable for their wrongdoing.