The U.S. Postal Service counts more than half a million career employees. Accordingly, even small differences between the rates of employee concerns can have large real-world impact. Data collection errors that lead to numbers off by just one percent of the whole agency can affect over 5,000 human beings.
That’s why it’s important to understand the concerns the agency’s Inspector General recently addressed. As she noted, the Postal Service has struggled to maintain reliable data. The result is that the agency doesn’t have a clear picture of its problems with sexual harassment.
Complaints that get lost in the shuffle
In an interview with Federal News Network, the inspector general clearly identified three ways that Postal Service harassment complaints can get lost in the shuffle:
- The Postal Service uses three reporting systems to track employees’ sexual harassment complaints. One system (WETS) tracks complaints filed with managers. A second (GATS) tracks complaints sent to union representatives for the grievance and arbitration process. The third system resides with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and tracks complaints filed to that agency. The reporting systems do not share a unique identifier for complaints, meaning that when someone files a complaint in more than one system, the agency doesn’t have a good way to recognize whether it is a duplicate filing.
- The majority of Postal Service managers who investigated complaints had not completed their mandatory training. Roughly two-thirds had completed some optional training. However, the Inspector General’s audit found that only 23 out of the 740 managers who investigated complaints, a mere 3%, had completed the full training.
- Management misclassified some of the complaints it received. A review of the WET system found that approximately 5% of the complaints filed under other categories, such as hostile work environment, should have been filed as sexual harassment.
These problems are notable because they cloud the whole picture of sexual harassment within the Postal Service. They limit the agency’s ability to understand the problem and make improvements. They lead to confusion and delays.
Federal employees deserve better
If you work for the U.S. Postal Service, these concerns may not be abstract to you. If you file a sexual harassment complaint, you expect that others will take it seriously. You deserve to have others take it seriously. You deserve justice.
This is why it’s disappointing to see how the Postal Service has struggled with tracking and investigating complaints. The good news is that the Inspector General has identified the problem. You are not alone.